Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered Florida’s flags to fly at half-staff on Saturday to mark Pulse Remembrance Day, which honors victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting.
Saturday marks the five-year anniversary of the tragedy that resulted in the deaths of 49 people and left 53 people injured when a gunman opened fire in a nightclub in Orlando.
“Five years ago, on June 12, 2016, a horrific act of terrorism was committed against the LGBTQ and Hispanic communities at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, by a shooter who claimed alliance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. This day marked the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history at the time,” DeSantis said in a written statement.
In a proclamation DeSantis called the shooting a “senseless and hateful act, and one of the darkest days in our state’s history.” The document also lists all of the victims’ names and mentions the “tremendous courage” of first responders.
DeSantis’ proclamation came just one day after Congress voted on Thursday to make Pulse Nightclub a national memorial. U.S. Sen. Rick Scott introduced the measure in the Senate. Scott was Governor of Florida when the mass shooting occurred. While introducing the measure, Scott said attending funerals and wakes for the victims ““was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.”
DeSantis, on past Pulse Remembrance Days, has ordered Florida’s flags to be flown at half-staff, but this year’s announcement comes amid controversy between DeSantis and the LGBTQ community.
DeSantis signed a bill on the first day of Pride month in June, strongly opposed by LGBTQ advocacy groups, that banned transgender women and girls from playing on women’s and girls’ sports teams. Throughout discussion over the new law DeSantis consistently used language that drew the ire of the LGBTQ community. At one point, DeSantis said the ban was “based off biology, not off ideology.”
From there, controversy sprung up earlier this week over a rainbow light scheme on a Jacksonville bridge to celebrate Pride month. When the city was ordered to take the rainbow lights down, DeSantis’ office was blamed for the decision. DeSantis denied any involvement in the decision, which he said was made independent of his office by the Department of Transportation. Sarasota officials said they were also denied the ability to light up a bridge in rainbow colors.
DeSantis, on June 2, signed a state budget that cut funding for Orlando’s LGBTQ Community Center and an organization that houses homeless LGBTQ youth. Activists say the funding would help survivors of the Pulse Nightclub shooting, which was devastating to Florida’s LGBTQ and Hispanic communities.
The shooting occurred during the gay nightclub’s Latin Night. Many of those killed were Latino.
The gunman was killed by police after a three-hour standoff, while people trapped inside desperately called and messaged family members.
Here is DeSantis’ full statement:
“Five years ago, on June 12, 2016, a horrific act of terrorism was committed against the LGBTQ and Hispanic communities at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, by a shooter who claimed alliance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. This day marked the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history at the time. Forty-nine people were killed and 53 were wounded. As a mark of respect for the victims, their families, and the many affected by this tragedy, I signed the attached Proclamation directing the flags of the United States and the State of Florida to be flown at half-staff at all local and state buildings, installations, and grounds throughout the State of Florida from sunrise to sunset on Saturday, June 12, 2021.”