The Twin Cities LGBTQ community is grappling with the impact of the mass shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs last weekend.
A gunman opened fire, leaving five dead and 17 injured in one of the city's few LGBTQ bars, an incident that some see as a result of an increase in anti-transgender rhetoric and legislation the past few years.
The tragedy has made folks in the LGBTQ community across the country feel vulnerable, said OutFront Minnesota Executive Director Kat Rohn.
In 2022, hundreds of anti-LGBTQ or anti-transgender bills have been filed in state legislatures across the country, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Seven of those bills were introduced in Minnesota.
The Club Q shooting occurred "at a time when we've seen an uptick in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and where we've seen harassment," Rohn said. "That leaves people feeling very concerned about their safety and about their place in this world."
Online misinformation translates to violence or instances of intimidation, such as when the Proud Boys protested a drag queen story hour at a St. Paul library, Rohn said, and other groups made hateful threats toward a Boston children's hospital providing care to transgender kids.
The Saloon in downtown Minneapolis is beefing up its security in response to the shooting. The decision was made to ensure the safety of patrons and to make sure they feel comfortable, said Katie Lindberg, assistant head of security at the Saloon.
"After the shooting we had some questions from regulars," she said. "They asked us what we are doing for their safety."
The bar has been a place of refuge for people since the shooting, a supportive space to be with other people in the LGBTQ community, Lindberg said. The bar is hosting a fundraiser for Club Q from 7-10 p.m. Dec. 17, when tips will go to the shooting's survivors.
In a statement on social media, Saloon General Manager Bobby Palmer said staff at the downtown bar have a low tolerance for violence and would take extra steps to make sure customers are safe.
"My heart breaks for the Colorado Springs queer community and the families of everyone who was injured or killed," PaImer wrote on social media. "Also can't possibly forget about the staff of Club Q who have had their home violated and their livelihoods put in jeopardy."
The tragedy brings home the importance of taking care of one another, said Wes Burdine, owner of Black Hart of St. Paul, a club that doubles as a soccer bar and gay bar.
"We are simultaneously heartbroken and angered by the Club Q attack," Burdine said.
Rohn encouraged people to have difficult conversations with family over Thanksgiving weekend about the shooting, which can go a long way to foster empathy for the LGBTQ community.
"I think that's individually where we can change hearts and minds around this issue," Rohn said. "If you share those personal experiences and connections, that can help shape somebody's perception of the community and maybe help to counter some of the hateful and biased rhetoric."
Rather than staying home in fear, patrons gathered at the Saloon like normal after the Club Q shooting last weekend, Lindberg said. "People wanted to have their community, they wanted to have fun and remember why we're here at the bar."
To support the Club Q community, donations can be directed to the Colorado Healing Fund: https://www.coloradogives.org/story/Clubq.