Content Warnings: Mass Shooting, anti-Black slurs (in quote), Orlando Pulse Shooting, state violence against POC.
Once again, people of color are under attack.
Around midnight on Monday, July 25, shots rang out in the parking lot of Club Blu in Fort Myers, Florida. The club was hosting a teen night. The club was closing when the assailants opened fire, leaving two teenagers dead and at least 16 people injured, ranging in age from 12 to 27 years old.
News of the Club Blu shooting comes just a little over a month after the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
ABC News reported, “Cub Blu co-owner Cheryl Filardi said at least 8 armed security guards were at the bar. ‘We did everything we could to make sure these kids were safe,’ Filardi said. ‘There was nothing we could do … A car rolled up and just started shooting.'”
The two teens who died are 18-year-old Stef’An Strawder and 14-year-old Sean Archilles. News-Press mentioned more about the two teens, saying “[Stawder was] a stand-out basketball player at Lehigh Senior High, and [Archilles was] an eigth-grader at Royal Palm Exceptional school.” CNN mentioned in its article on the shooting that Archilles, too, was an avid lover of sports. Strawder died while being treated for his wounds at the Lee Memorial Hospital, while Archilles died at the scene.
Almost an hour prior, police chased three people in a white Chevy Impala, which finally came to a stop some seven miles away from the club’s location. After stopping, two of the vehicle’s passengers attempted to escape on foot, while the driver of the vehicle was shot by police. So far, three suspects have been arrested, but interim Fort Myers Police Chief Dennis Eads said at a press conference that they’re still looking for other possible suspects. And it’s been reported that the FBI and ATF have now gotten involved in the case as well, the News-Press reports.
It seems that law enforcement in Fort Myers, and Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott, haven’t been doing much to actually help folks. Instead, Sheriff Scott has taken an extremely racist approach, using calculated tactics like victim blaming and anti-Blackness to explain what transpired that night.
He even went as far as to say “Dress like a thug, speak like a thug, act like a thug … I know we have dismal examples in the hip-hop world. These are people who these young kids in some places look up to.”
He even went on to blame the parents — who sent their children to a place they were ensured would be safe — by saying, “When I was 14 years old, I wouldn’t be out at a bar at 12 o’clock midnight. You’ve got to look at parenting.”
How are the parents to blame for sending their teens to an environment that they were assured by the staff of the nightclub would be safe for their kids to have fun and be carefree?
This pattern seems all too familiar. We witnessed similar things as this in the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub shooting. However, in that shooting, Islamophobia was the tactic used to blame Omar Mateen for his actions. Even though homophobia and transphobia were clearly to blame. The white supremacist media began twisting the facts and put out articles saying he had pledged allegiance to ISIS, when in reality the three groups he supposedly pledged allegiance to on social media do not work together, nor do they even like each other. In reality, Mateen didn’t check his facts, and it seemed he didn’t truly know anything about these groups.
The media, the public, and politicians (including Hillary Clinton) tried to paint him as a radical Islamist, showing — once again — that they use Islamophobia and racism as their scapegoats by any means necessary.
A few days after the shooting in Orlando, Police Chief John Mina came forward with information, according to Free Thoughts Project, saying, “When our SWAT officers, about eight or nine officers, opened fire, the backdrop was a concrete wall, and they were being fired upon. … The complex layout of the structure, may have resulted in numerous patrons being struck by gunfire from officers. … Mina stood by his decision to employ a tactical site amidst the rising likelihood that a number of the dead were the result of ‘friendly fire’ from officers.”of
Not to mention, it took almost three hours for Orlando PD to send their SWAT team after the call for help was made — and then contributed to the body count by recklessly opening fire on innocent victims.
It seems, as with the Pulse shooting, that most of the injured victims at Club Blu were Black and Latinx. While these shootings weren’t directly related, it seems that being a person of color, especially one who is transgender or queer, is a deadly offense.
The truth is, there seems to be no end to state violence and systemic racism, even after calling authorities — the people we’ve so long been told are supposed to help us in cases of emergency.
The reality is they do not care about our bodies, safety or well-being. They’d rather see us in body bags or hidden away in poverty. They’d rather criminalize and institutionalize our bodies. There’s no place for us to be carefree. It seems like we have to look around every corner before we even reach it.
These two shootings, along with others from the past, send the message loud and clear: being queer, being transgender, being a person of color will get you killed.