Movement against Orlando Pulse museum gains momentum

click to enlarge Movement against Orlando Pulse museum gains momentum
Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
A steadily-growing coalition in Orlando has set up an online campaign with the goal of stopping construction plans for a multi-million-dollar museum near the site of the Pulse nightclub massacre.

The NoPulseMuseum Twitter account and an accompanying website first appeared online at the start of August.

Christine Leinonen, the mother of Pulse victim Drew Leinonen, said that she's an administrator on the site, along with former Pulse patron Zachary Blair. The group, which calls themselves the Community Coalition Against a Pulse Museum, is asking for a public memorial in place of what they call a "death tourism site."

"They're not honoring my son. They're making it into a spectacle, a circus. My son is not a tourist attraction. He lived his life with honor, with dignity, with character," Leinonen said by phone Tuesday. "He's being exploited. His death is being exploited by Poma to make it into a tourist attraction."

In an interview with the Orlando Sentinel, 29-year-old Pulse survivor Norman Casiano, voiced similar concerns while simultaneously facing serious ongoing health problems. “They’re talking about a theme-park environment where you buy memorabilia," he told the Sentinel. "If something needed to be made on the site, have it be a remembrance garden with beautiful trees and flowers.”
Leinonen started a petition against the museum that has gathered nearly 45,00 signatures.

There has been ongoing skepticism from Leinonen concerning the finances and intentions of the onePULSE Foundation, headed by former Pulse nightclub owner Barbara Poma. Leinonen is also among a group of victims and family members in the midst of a wrongful death lawsuit against Poma over Pulse security measures the night of the shooting.

In June, a number of Central Florida lawmakers called for an audit of onePULSE Foundation. The latest tax returns show Poma earned $43,000 as the only paid employee, and that the nonprofit raised around $375,000 and spent $254,000 in 2017.

The estimated $50 million project has a contract with Orange County for a $10 million grant.

The coalition against the museum points to the Sandy Hook, Aurora and Columbine memorials as examples of open public spaces that didn't undertake million-dollar developments to commemorate mass shootings.

But the onePULSE Foundation in response released a statement that the foundation is "following the model of other museums and memorials such as those in Oklahoma City and the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City."

Foundation representatives specified that a memorial will be at the site of the shooting, while the museum will be a few blocks down at the corner of Kaley Avenue and Division Avenue.

The memorial will be free, while the museum will charge a yet-to-be specified "modest admission," the foundation wrote in an emailed statement.

"The memorial will ensure there is always a free space for any visitor to reflect on the tragedy and honor those who were victims. The museum will tell the story of the victims, the tragedy, the community’s response, and provide a world-class education center to learn from the lessons of hate so they aren’t repeated," the foundation stated. "Without a museum, there is no place to tell the story for future generations and we risk the tragedy being erased entirely over time.”

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