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US Embassy Berlin
Image: DW/F. v. d. Mark

Berlin mourns Orlando

Fabian von der Mark / dc
June 13, 2016

Gays and lesbians have gathered in front of the US embassy in Berlin to mourn the victims of the Orlando shooting. Many said the attack has affected them personally, as they also experience hate in their everyday lives.

https://p.dw.com/p/1J61h

It was when he woke up this morning, one day after the mass shooting in Orlando, that Ron Abraham felt the full impact of the attack. "It only just hit me this morning how bad it is," he said. He came to the US embassy in Berlin in the rain bearing flowers for the victims. "It's my nightmare," he says, wiping away tears.

Abraham is an American. He's gay, and he's from Orlando. He's been to Pulse, the club where the attack took place, many times. "It's a gay club just like any other in the US. It could have happened to any of us, anywhere." Fifty people died in the shooting, another 53 were injured.

Abraham says it's just lucky that he wasn't in Orlando. His partner is from Berlin, and the couple is spending time now in Germany. But soon, they'll be in Orlando again. Abraham stands somewhat apart from the crowd in front of the embassy. He wears sneakers, shorts, and a hoodie. His ears are pierced and he has a gray beard.

Ron Abraham at US Embassy Berlin
Orlando native Ron Abraham: 'It could have happened to any of us'Image: DW/F. v. d. Mark

He looks sadly at the group of around 200 mourners. He's happy to see them showing solidarity with the victims, and adds that homosexuals have been especially affected: "Everyone knows that hatred against gays, everyone has experienced that in their lives."

Stars and rainbow stripes

The day after the attack, people continue to speculate whether the shooter was an Islamist terrorist, or a homophobe driven by hate. As if terrorists act out of love. As if Islamism weren't also homophobic.

Raffael, who works at the embassy, says for him, the motives aren't important. He's holding a US flag in his hands. The 50 stars are all there, but instead of the seven red and six white stripes, the stripes are rainbow colored.

He says he got the flag for Christopher Street Day (CSD). For four years now, the US embassy has been represented at the annual LGBT parade. It's usually an exuberant, festive affair, but this year, the atmosphere will be different.

Parading concerns

That's also the fear of the Green Party, whose entire leadership came out to the Brandenburg Gate on Monday. Now, they've arrived with their flowers at the memorial site.

Yesterday, gay Green politician Volker Beck was tweeting his irritation about the police presence at a pride parade in Kyiv. That was before Orlando. Now, the Greens are also talking about security at CSD.

Beck's party colleague Thomas Birk is still in shock. The queer politics spokesman for the Green Party Berlin brought three bouquets - enough flowers for everyone.

"I was always afraid that it would come to such a state of hate. It's devastating. Especially now, at the start of CSD season."

But neither Birk nor anyone else wants to see armed guards at every gay club in the German capital. There's no such thing as total security, he says.

'Fear is not the solution'

Clara agrees with him. In the crowd in front of the US embassy, she stands out due to her height. The Berlin drag queen is dressed all in black. But not to express grief. "That's not my style," she says.

Clara in front of Brandenburg Gate
Drag queen Clara: 'Fear is what they want us to feel'Image: DW/F. v. d. Mark

She says she has also often experienced hate, and she also feels deeply affected by the mass shooting in Orlando. But she says she will not go into hiding. "Fear is not the solution. Fear is what they want us to feel," Clara says.

Ron Abraham says it's the anger that pushes him to live without fear. Anger at people who seem more interested in profiting from the attack than mourning the dead. People, he says, like Donald Trump. He has nothing but contempt for the Republican candidate. "Trump is the worst," he says. It's a bad day - and not just for the LGBT community in Berlin.

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