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Friday, July 22, 2016

Hillary Clinton comforts Pulse survivors, families at Orlando roundtable

Posted By on Fri, Jul 22, 2016 at 6:13 PM

  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
Before a boisterous rally in Tampa, presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton met privately with Pulse victims' families and survivors, and later held an intimate roundtable with Orlando community leaders. 

Clinton says people need to acknowledge that the mass shooting at the gay nightclub that left 49 dead and 53 wounded was a targeted attack on the Latino LGBT community. The former Secretary of State says the massacre also highlights the conversation Americans need to have about the "epidemic" of gun violence and assault weapons. 

"It is still dangerous to be LGBT in America," she says. "(They) are more likely than any other group in our country to be the targets of hate crimes...We have to stand against hate and bigotry. I was really moved by everyone who stood in solidarity with the victims and families here in Orlando." 

After a short speech, Clinton listened intently and took notes as local leaders spoke about the tragedy and the aftermath. People at the roundtable meeting included Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer; City Commissioner Patty Sheehan; Carlos Guillermo Smith and Ida Eskamani, of Equality Florida; Terry DeCarlo, of the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida; Imam Muhammad Musri, of the Islamic Society of Central Florida; and Orlando Police SWAT Capt. Mark Canty.

Sheehan thanked Clinton for waiting until Orlando was ready to visit and for not politicizing the event like other elected officials. 

"We should not hate," Sheehan says. "Hating a Muslim person is the same thing as hating a gay person."
  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
Survivors of the Pulse mass shooting and families of the victims were also in attendance and had met earlier with Clinton. Christine Leinonen, mother of Christopher "Drew" Leinonen, told reporters Clinton sent her a personal letter after her son and his boyfriend Juan Ramon Guerrero were killed at Pulse. Drew Leinonen supported the nominee for president, she says, and would talk about her to his mother. 

"(Clinton) never wanted to use me or my son for her political gain," she says. 

Clinton stopped briefly at the scene of the massacre to lay white flowers next to the other tributes people have been leaving at Pulse. 

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