LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Police Chief Charlie Beck said the Muslim and LGBTQ communities in Los Angeles are standing together to show that they will not allow incidents like this weekend’s mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando to drive a wedge between the two groups.
“The real tragedy of Orlando is that it further divides an already divided nation,” Beck said during a news conference on Tuesday, June 14, at Los Angeles Police Department headquarters. “But what we want to talk about today is that our communities have come together to … denounce what one individual did in Florida.”
The shooting represents “a very solemn moment for our lives today,” said LGBTQ activist Karina Samala, who serves on a city task force working on transgender issues.
“Our community has always been targeted all our lives,” she said. “Daily we face discrimination and hatred. We’re the highest rate of fatalities, senseless death and crime towards a community since 2007, or as far as I can recollect.”
Samala finished her remarks by turning to police department officials and Muslim community members and telling them, “We need your help, we need your protection — thank you, thank you for your help.”
Members of the Muslim community who joined Beck said they will defend members of the LGBTQ community against those who would perpetrate violence and impose hatred on them.
“We are your shield,” said Salam Al-Marayati, executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, addressing members of the LGBTQ community.
“The Muslim community stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the LGBTQ community,” he said. “We are one, we are all part of one humanity, and we will defend each other — we will work together.”
The Orlando gunman, Omar Mateen, who was killed by SWAT officers after he had already massacred 49 people and wounded 53 others at the nightclub Pulse, had called 911 prior to the shooting to pledge his allegiance to ISIS.
Al-Marayati called Mateen’s violent actions, as well as those of attackers in recent mass murders in San Bernardino and France, “despicable.”
Addressing followers of ISIS, Al-Qeada or “anyone else who is promoting this cult of death,” Al-Marayati said “you don’t represent me, you don’t represent the 1.5 billion Muslims — you represent the worst of humanity, not just a distortion of the faith. You promote cruelty. My religion teaches me mercy.”
Deputy Chief Michael Downing, who leads the LAPD’s counter-terrorism and special operations bureau, said Los Angeles’ diversity and its many communities are the source of the city’s strength, adding that the department will work to defend all of the city’s communities.
“This is the strength that we offer,” Downing said. “This is not what the adversary wants to see.”
“The human capital you see before you are the people who will defeat the adversary … because they’re resilient, and they know how to solve problems,” Downing said, adding that they also have “access to government — they have a voice, because the chief has given them a voice.”
Hina Abidi, a Muslim Pakistani-American and Los Angeles resident, noted that in addition to partnerships between the LAPD and the community, “there is a lot more that needs to be done, and we have to learn a lot more about each other and get to know each other better.”
She said the Orlando shooting reminded her of her own discomfort with people who identify as LGBTQ. About 15 years ago, when her son attempted to talk to her about LGBTQ rights, she reacted sharply, telling him, “Listen, stop it! I don’t know about them, and I don’t want to know about them.”
Abidi said she was “very taken aback by my own statement.”
She said that thinking back now, she “just felt, ‘How ignorant I was.’”
Abidi said she has “many close friends now in the community and I am very close to them, and I love them, for their kindness and their gentleness and so many other qualities.”
The “fears and suspicions arise from our own ignorance,” she said, and the fear “of learning more about other communities.”