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Lake Merritt vigil

Dozens gather at Lake Merritt to honor those killed at queer club in Colorado

on November 26, 2022

About three dozen people gathered at the Lake Merritt amphitheater on a chilly Friday night to remember the five people who were killed last weekend in a mass shooting at a queer nightclub in Colorado Springs. 

During the three-hour vigil, people, mostly wearing black, listened to music — some hugging, others crying, and many laughing together, as they tried to care for one another in the wake of continued brutality against queer people in the United States.

“Being queer and trans in 2022 is just living through an endless wave of senseless tragedy and violence directed at us,” Bella Hangnail said, as music played in the background. “Taking the time to make space like this to process our grief so that we can move forward is really important.”

At the start of the vigil, that message was made plain, with the crowd being told: “This space is ours.”

Lake Merritt vigil
Bella Hangnail plays guitar and sings to the crowd. (Jeremiah O. Rhodes)

The pictures of the five people killed at Club Q were displayed on an altar, surrounded by flowers and candles. 

“I want to live and thrive in a queerness that is antithetical to settler colonialism and white supremacy,” B, the vigil’s organizer — who did not feel safe using their full name, given the recent violence against queer people — said to the crowd. “We have a long, hard fight in front of us. I encourage everyone to get really good at taking care of each other and ourselves.”

Honoring the five people who were killed and the two dozen who were injured was not the vigil’s only purpose. People came to honor queer people “from these stolen Ohlone lands to Iran and Colorado Springs and beyond.” 

Across the U.S., politicians have proposed and enacted legislation restricting the rights of members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and the attacks have left many queer people emotionally exhausted. For many, the vigil was an opportunity to combat that. 

Bree Gaddy, an Oakland resident who works for the National Network of Abortion Funds, came to mourn in community with other queer people. 

“It’s been a heavy life with a lot of violence,” Gaddy said. “My friend invited me to this, and I was like, ‘I’m really tired.’” 

Gaddy chose to attend the vigil anyway, saying, “It’s nice to just be with others and do a little ritual and just be in my body with everything that’s been going on.”

Lake Merritt vigil
People, one donning a trans flag, gather sat the vigil. (Jeremiah O. Rhodes)

Several musicians participated in the vigil. Hangnail played guitar and sang “8 Full Hours of Sleep” by the punk band Against Me!. 

“Tomorrow, America just might fall apart,” she sang, as the crowd shouted the lyrics with her. 

“Let the new night bring you peace
And the promise of tomorrow.”

Off to the side, a pair, sitting on the pavement, took swigs from a flask, looked at one another, and embraced, holding one another as the song continued.


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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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