Portland's Powerful Response to the Orlando Massacre

In the wake of one of the deadliest shootings in American history, our city takes up the call to action.

By Lisa Dunn June 17, 2016

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In the wake of the massacre in Orlando, there has been an overwhelming response from around the country, including an almost-15-hour Senate filibuster, led by Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, demanding a vote on gun control, and a fundraiser for victims and families organized by Equality Florida that has, so far, garnered $5 million in donations

The shooting, which targeted Latin Night at Pulse, a gay nightclub, is one of the deadliest shootings in American history—and it showcases the complex manner in which racism, homophobia, transphobia, and gun laws can intersect and create an environment ripe for violence against marginalized communities. 

And now, many in Portland are throwing their support behind the victims of the shooting and the entire LGBT community. A common element in Portlanders’ response? Let’s make this into something more than thoughts, prayers, and feelings of helplessness. We’ve seen vigils, fundraisers, and more crop up throughout the region. 

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One of the most powerful responses came from Back To Eden Bakery co-owner John Blomgren, who released a public statement addressing the Orlando massacre earlier this week. Blomgren, who co-owns the bakery with his longtime partner, Garrett Jones, called the massacre a “watershed moment” in American history, one that, despite feelings of desperation, he believes marks a turning point in a country where violence feels like the norm. “You might ask yourself, when the world is as messed up and as complicated as it seemingly is, ‘I am only one person, what can I do?’ Well, the best I can come up with right now is to lean in to that shiny, happy future you have in mind for you and all your loved ones.”  

(As an intriguing side point, Blomgrem also notes that Orlando was “not the deadliest mass shooting in American history…. No, that honor, it could be argued, goes to Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890 when as many of 300—mostly unarmed—Lakota Sioux men, women, and children were killed at the hands of the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment.”) 

While Portland’s known for going all-out for its 41-year-old Pride festival, many seem to be going the extra mile this year in terms of visible support for the LGBT community. Many local businesses have put together fundraisers for the Orlando victims. Here’s a look at how Portland is handling the tragedy and how you can get involved. 

Vigils to honor the victims

On Sunday—only hours after the shooting occurred—hundreds gathered outside of Embers to honor the 49 victims—most of whom were Latinx. 

Trinity Cathedral in Northwest Portland held a special eucharist on Wednesday evening, and the Q Center held a vigil and fundraiser on Thursday night.


Portland turns out. #weareorlando #equality #pride ❤️💛💚💙💜 love conquers hate

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Many Portland-area LGBT clubs and bars have come together to raise money to donate to Orlando’s LGBT Center as well. An Embers Avenue employee, Kalah, stated early on June 16 that they had raised over $4,000 and would be presenting it at the Q Center Vigil that evening.

The Morrison Bridge is also being lit in rainbow colors early this year. While usually the rainbow lights are reserved for Pride (which officially starts this year on June 17) Multnomah County lit them early to honor the victims. 

Oregonians are also participating in the conversation on a national level: US Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden both participated in Chris Murphy’s historic 14-hour filibuster to demand a vote on gun control. Merkley released a video just before the filibuster announcing his support for the LGBTQ community:

US Rep. Earl Blumenauer also tweeted his support for both the LGBTQ community and gun control:

Businesses raising funds for the victims

Kenny & Zuke’s 

Ken Gordon of Portland institution Kenny & Zuke's announced that 100 percent of the proceeds from this year’s Pride cookies will be split evenly between victims of the shooting and a gun control advocacy group. Operations and bakery manager Melissa Martin said that in the past they’ve made their rainbow cake and a couple of other things, but this year they wanted to expand their selection. 

“When the shooting happened, we were trying to figure out, ‘What do we do? How do we deal with this?’” she said. “And we decided that the proceeds will be donated—half to the victims of Orlando, half to [Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America].”

“We do donations all the time for local organizations, but we had never donated the proceeds [of our Pride pastries]. But this felt important.”

The cakes are available all month, and the cookies will be available through June 19. 


One of Portland’s top LGBTQ-friendly boutiques, Wildfang also announced plans to donate a portion of its proceeds to help the victims. From Friday, June 17 through Sunday, June 19, 10 percent of your purchase at Wildfang's west-side location (404 SW 10th Avenue) will go to the Pulse Victims Fund.  


All across the country, ride-share company Lyft is donating to Pride festivals—including Pride Northwest. Check out the details on Lyft’s blog

Above all else, never stop showing your support

Most important: stay visible and stay loud. In his public statement, Blomgren wrote: “Maybe you are feeling it too but suddenly on Sunday around 2am EST when the beat was pumping and queens were looking their glittery best something shifted and we are all being called to wake up the f*** up and look at the world we are creating. Together. As. One. Human. Family."

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