Massacre at LGBT nightclub in Florida provokes sympathy and concerns in Europe | News | DW | 14.06.2016
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Massacre at LGBT nightclub in Florida provokes sympathy and concerns in Europe

In London and Berlin police are working closely with their repsective LGBT communities to ensure their safety. Gun control laws mean that most Europeans can't legally obtain assault rifles, but there are other concerns.

The deadliest mass shooting in US history, which left the country in mourning and the LGBT community devastated, has also sparked sympathy and concerns overseas.

In London, Scotland Yard Commander Mak Chishty voiced the Metropolitan Police's sympathies for the victims of the Orlando massacre, which left the shooter and 49 dead, with a further 53 wounded. On the agency's website Chishty vowed to protect the London's gay community.

"While there is no intelligence to suggest an increased risk in London, we have increased our patrols in prime locations and continue to work closely and engage with the LGBT community, visiting clubs and local areas offering reassurance and being visible," he said. "There are LGBT liaison officers available in every borough who are out and about and using their networks to understand how the community is feeling and offer support."

Of London's upcoming gay pride parade, on June 25, he said they have a "robust, visible policing plan in place."

In the early hours of Sunday morning, police in Orlando, Florida say, 29-year-old Omar Mateen walked into a gay nightclub with a military-style assault rifle and began spraying the place with bullets.

By the time the carnage ended - three hours later, after a standoff with police - 50 people, including Mateen, were dead and 53 were wounded.

Watch video 03:36

Outpouring of grief and solidarity with US

Across Europe well-planned gun control laws make it almost impossible for private citizens to legally obtain military-style assault rifles like the kind Mateen and other mass murderers in the US have used in recent years.

Concerns about safety

But that doesn't mean the LGBT communities, such as the one in Germany, aren't concerned about their safety, according to Marcel de Groot, director of the Gay Counseling Center in Berlin.

"A lot of people have an unspoken fear of this kind of attack," he said. "It is always in the background but now it is more in the forefront."

A growing far-right movement in Germany had already begun to set the local LGBT community on edge, and now concerns are heightened all the more.

De Groot recalled a party Friday night, before the Florida massacre, where "Someone came in with a big backpack, and one person got nervous wondering what could be in there."

Statistically Berlin's LGBT community is relatively safe, according to Bastian Finke, a project director at Maneo. His organization tracks hate-based attacks and abuses against the LGBT community in Berlin.

In 2015 Maneo recorded "259 homophobic incidents" in the city of 3.5 million. Of those he said 64 were physical attacks. Another 52 were the most serious form of verbal attack, which in Germany often involves some form of Holocaust denial, or an oblique reference to the genocide, according to Finke.

One illustration could be something like, "You dirty pig, they have forgotten to gas you," Finke said.

Small numbers, but…

The numbers are small - a tiny fraction of Berlin's population - but Finke issued two cautions. First, he has no doubt that there is considerable underreporting of such incidents, so the dangers are somewhat higher than the reported numbers suggest, though Finke admits they are still modest.

Watch video 01:16

The world mourns the victims in Orlando

More worryingly is that Maneo is the only non-governmental agency in Germany tracking such crimes, according to Finke, and they are only doing it in Berlin, which is one of the safest havens in the country for LGBT members.

"We are the only project of its type in Germany," Finke said. "It's a huge problem, and it shows how big the problem is in the rest of the country."

De Groot, of the Gay Counseling Center, agreed that so-called hate crimes against he LGBT community are a bigger issue outside of the capital, where there is also less monitoring.

"We're happy to have the (city) government's support," he said. "But we know (Berlin) is only a small island in a big (German) ocean. We know the stories of Leipzig and elsewhere where people attack refugee centers."

Back in the US, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a Washington-based NGO, echoed expressions of sympathy for those directly affected by the weekend massacre in Florida.

"We are grieving for the victims and our hearts are broken for their friends, families, and for the entire community," HRC President Chad Griffin said in an online statement. "[N]ow more than ever we must come together as a nation to affirm that love conquers hate.

Griffin added, "We are grateful that President Obama has directed the FBI and other federal agencies to support the investigation of this attack and the LGBTQ community during this time."

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