On Sunday, June 12, Santa Monica Police arrested James Wesley Howell, 20, of Indiana. His car was found with long rifles, magazine clips, boxes of bullets, a rifle scope, and "chemicals capable of forming an improvised explosive device."
I was invited by my friend to the Gay Pride parade in Los Angeles today and wanted to go, but couldn't, due to a Girl Scout event for my daughter. I wish I could celebrate with her, like we did when gay marriage became legal and we went down to celebrate with the people in the streets, and bonded in a way we hadn't before, as I witnessed how historic it all really was.
Now, I feel the "terror" in the kind of terrorism that happened in Orlando. It is how I felt in New York on 9/11, when I was in lower Manhattan and heard the planes and watched the cloud of debris standing like a bully as I walked uptown, a testament to hate and ugliness. My terror continued in the days after, and during the confusing anthrax scares. I ended up leaving New York permanently within a month, fearful and overwhelmed. Terror took away my freedom to live where I wanted to live.
Seeing that an arrest was made this morning of a heavily armed man at Santa Monica's pride parade, I know that if I went to the LA parade today, I would be afraid like I was in New York, and now I am afraid for her and others. I don't want to live like this in my country. I don't want her to live like this for a minute, ever. I don't want my daughter to ever feel this way for any reason. Terror is taking away our freedom to celebrate. It is working.
That is what terrorism does. The fear of bodily harm for being what we are immediately robs us of freedom. It is felt by gay people every day, by female college students on campus, by minorities, by anyone who alters their day, their dress, or their words to avoid bodily harm for being themselves. We are not a free nation if any of us feel like this. When one of us is oppressed, it limits us all, it limits the potential of us as a nation and destroys our reputation as a symbol of freedom.
How do we stand up to it? How do we stand bravely at the threat of an AR-15 automatic weapon which is legal to buy in our country? How do we support our LGBT community today and every day? I don't know. But I want to think about it long and hard today, and I want my friends to know I understand their terror and grief, and that it is not an acceptable way for anyone to live in this or any society. Already there is rhetoric that seems to blame the victims for the tragedy. You see it in the comments of news articles, and one Republican politician tweeted a bible verse suggesting that they got what they deserved, though he walked it back as coincidental. Those sickening enough to suggest that these things are deserved in some way are terrorists in our culture as much as those who holding the guns. They are the ones who fuel hatred and intolerance and make us unsafe with their rhetoric. We need to hold those who encourage hatred as accountable. It is not just an opinion to believe gays deserve to be killed, it is ignorance that incites violence–and they, too, are responsible.
Anyone attending any pride event today to celebrate who they are is an exceptionally courageous and heroic person. They are facing very real, violent threats against their lives for their sexual orientation, and doing it because they refuse to be terrorized in a society that it seems to be increasingly terrifying to be yourself in. When you look at footage and photos of those parades today, remember that those people are fighting for freedom–theirs, and ultimately all of ours.
WEST HOLLYWOOD: LA Times reports arrest of man armed and with explosives heading to Gay Pride Festival. https://t.co/7hyFhyt5da
— Chuck Pfarrer (@ChuckPfarrer) June 12, 2016
Developing: Evidence gathered at Santa Monica location where man was arrested with weapons before LA Pride. pic.twitter.com/6ALC08Go61
— Jeff Nguyen (@jeffnguyen) June 12, 2016