NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - On June 12, 2016, 49 men and women were murdered in the Pulse night club in Orlando, Florida in a terrifying and bloody mass shooting that targeted members of the LGBTQ community. "Terrorist" is a term sometimes used without meaning anymore, yet it denotes the intention of someone not only to kill,l but also to create a culture of fear. It is an attempt to keep people imprisoned, closeted, and quiet. Today in New Brunswick with the raising of the gay pride rainbow flag at the Middlesex County Courthouse, the terrorist, who shot these Americans and wounded 53 others, was not remembered. The fear he hoped to create was replaced by support and a sense of unity here in central New Jersey and around the nation.
Michael Spadoro, Chairperson of the Middlesex Democratic Organization's LGBT Caucus, welcomed about three dozen county residents to the flag-raising event: " This is the first time we have a flag-raising in Middlesex county - one of the most diverse in the country - and we hope to see it continue from now on. Events like these bring us one step closer to equality. It's great to know that our representatives 'have our back' here in Middlesex County." He then provided a brief history of Pride Month which was celebrated for the 26th time in Asbury Park two weeks ago.
Spadoro was then joined by Ruell Calvin Brown, a candidate for South River Town Council, in a recitation of the names of those killed in Orlando, to whom the event was dedicated.
Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-12) spoke to those assembled, describing her visit to the Pulse night club during the Presidential campaign season last fall. She noted that she was "inspired" by the messages of hope, love, and unity expressed by the visitors to the site.
Watson Coleman then went on to link the shooting with the recent gun assaults at the UPS facility near San Francisco and the attacks on Republican politicians in Alexandria, VA. "We have guns in the hands of the wrong people. The type of guns used in these attacks should not be available. We need common sense gun laws." (The attack in Orlando was carried out by a single shooter using a Sig Sauer MCX .223-caliber rifle and a Glock 17 9mm semi-automatic pistol which were purchased legally. The attack on the Senators during a baseball practice las week involved a single shooter with an SKS 7.62-millimeter caliber rifle, also purchased legally.)
"We are pausing for America, " said Watson Coleman, "We should celebrate diversity. We should take these moments to acknowledge the contributions of a diverse community. We are at our best when we bring our talents together."
In a reference to some current concerns of the LGBTQ community, Watson Coleman continued, "We must remember that we are a country of laws. We are working to insure civil rights in public accommodations. We don't take inclusion lightly. Government has a distinct role in in protecting us and lifting us up. We want to lift hope, commitment, and solidarity for all people."
Vice-Chair of the MCDO LGBTQ Caucus Richard Green III took the podium next, adding, "As a life-long resident of Middlesex County and a gay man, today means a lot to me. Yet, it reminds me that the hard work continues." Green quoted gay activist Harvey Milk, the San Francisco Councilman who was assassinated in 1978, saying, "We must show persistence, resistance, and commitment. Hope will never be silent."
Michael Spadoro then invited everyone - "Let's go out and make some history!" - to exit the building to raise the flag in front of the courthouse. Freeholders Charles Kenny and Kenneth Armwood raised the banner, joined by Watson Coleman and Assemblyman Joseph Danielsen (D-17.)
Though the day in Central New Jersey was overcast, there was nonetheless a rainbow over New Brunswick.