HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) – Although tragedy struck hundreds of miles away in Orlando, Florida, there is still an impact in the Hampton Roads area.
The images are heartbreaking and the details are shocking. For some members of the LGBT community, there was an added layer of emotion.
“Really anger was the first thing I thought of,” says Alan Phillips, co-owner of Rainbow Cactus.
The anger led Phillips to action. He and his co-owner decided to give some proceeds from a weekly fundraiser at their nightclub, the Rainbow Cactus, to help the victims of the tragedy in Orlando.
“There’s not a lot we can do. I can’t go down there and physically give them a helping hand, but we can send them something that might help,” Phillips says.
Phillips told 10 On Your Side’s Brandi Cummings that as the co-owner of a club, he is always concerned about safety. He says they’ve had people make threats outside their club, but never anything inside. He says news of the tragedy made him violated.
“Places like our club and Pulse and the LGBT Center, they are places of sanctuary. They are places where people can go and be themselves without fear of persecution or being attacked for who they are and that got destroyed and violated and that really hit hard,” he says.
“It’s just hurtful to your being that they were targeted,” says Stacie Walls-Beegle, Executive Director of the LGBT Center of Hampton Roads.
The LGBT Center supports businesses like the Rainbow Cactus. Walls-Beegle says more should be done to safeguard what she calls a vulnerable community.
“This is a targeted hate crime. This is an intentional crime against the LGBT community there has got to be a focus on the LGBT community and protecting the community,” she says.
Walls-Beegle says that has not been part of the conversation happening in the aftermath of the mass shooting. That’s why her organization is hosting a community conversation and rally – hoping that no one ever has to see the tragic images again.
“I think it’s easy sometimes in the LGBT community to separate out the lesbians and the gays and the transgenders and there’s different groups. This is a time when all the groups need to come together and have a voice. It’s for your life,” Walls-Beegle says.
The conversation and rally begins at 7 p.m. in the parking lot of the LGBT Center at 247 W 25th Street in Norfolk.
Click here to donate to the victims of the Orlando massacre.