DHS warns of terror threats to LGBTQ, migrant and Jewish communities

Published: Nov. 30, 2022 at 11:08 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The news of the Club Q mass shooting in Colorado sent horrific shockwaves across the nation. On Nov. 20, a 22-year-old gunman opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle inside the gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, killing five people and leaving 25 injured.

More than a week after the attack, the Department of Homeland Security says some individuals and groups motivated by “ideological beliefs or personal grievance” were encouraged by the mass shooting. In a new terrorism advisory bulletin, the agency warned some online forums known for extremist contact are “praising the alleged attacker.”

Sadly, the trans-rights advocates at House of Tulip say threats are nothing new.

“I’m not going to say that because of what happened at Club Q that we are seeing more of anything because that fear of violence is ever present in our life, especially Black and brown trans people,” executive director Mariah Moore said.

Moore and her staff say they’ve seen firsthand the discrimination against trans people in New Orleans regarding housing, job security and health care.

That’s what led them to launch House of Tulip in 2020, to provide trans and gender non-conforming people a safe place to stay and much-needed resources. A lot of that work happens in their stabilization center, where people in need can take advantage of free meals, a clothing closet, hygiene products and community.

“They can come and just be among the community and be safe and get the things that they need to better themselves,” Milan Sherry, Director of Community Support/Outreach, said.

Sherry says the resources House of Tulip provides is becoming more in demand as gentrification, crime and lack of job opportunities hurt the community. She says having a trans-led organization helping other trans people is critical and so far, they’ve helped hundreds of people access the help they need.

“When we created this resource, we wanted to make sure it was zero-barrier, that folks can access without having to be HIV-positive, youth, dealing with domestic issues,” Sherry said. “We wanted to be a space that folks can access across the board.”

In light of the Club Q mass shooting and increased discrimination, organizers call city officials for a city-run LGBTQ center and more consistent dialogue with LGBTQ liaisons.

“We are a city that was built and is centered with so much love and so much culture and we don’t see that in the small corners of our community and we have to ask ourselves why. Why is that?” Moore said. “Is it because we live our lives in silos and these things don’t matter because we don’t think they’re affecting us or because we are in a space of stability that only when we are destabilized we need these things and they matter?”

So far, in 2022, the Anti-Defamation League has recorded 1,497 instances of antisemitism, extremism and terrorism across the United States. In Louisiana, there have only been 66 reported instances, 56 of which are white supremacist propaganda. The DHS terrorism advisory bulletin also warned of threats towards migrants and Jews in light of political tensions.

“It’s coming fast furious and in so many different directions,” Lindsay Baach Friedmann, Regional Director of ADL South Central, said.

A recent incident was when Judge Karen Herman’s campaign signs were defaced with swastikas just days before the November election. Baach Friedmann says that now more than ever, Jews are on alert, especially at synagogues and community spaces.

“They’re taking it to the next level and securing the building, putting the fences around the perimeters, things that many people might’ve felt were unheard of for years are now becoming the norm or there is a need for that to become the norm,” she said.

And other than preaching tolerance and calling out intolerance among friends, coworkers and others in public, Baach Friedmann says having legislation that promotes inclusivity is necessary. She also says measures like SB 44 that banned transgender women and girls from competing on sports teams consistent with their gender at all public schools can have harmful backlash for the LGBTQ community.

“When those messages are normalized, when those are legislated then that allows for hate and misunderstanding and violence to escalate toward those communities,” she said. “A targeting of one marginalized community is a targeting of all marginalized communities.”

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