NEW LONDON – Former New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio says he understands that some people hate him, but that doesn't make it easier when when tragedy strikes, such as the massacre at an Orlando gay bar over the weekend.
"As a gay man ever since I was 18, 19 years old, I know that people could hate me and wish me ill, including physically wish me ill," the former mayor said.
Finizio, who now practices law near his former City Hall office, says Congress’ repeated inaction on background checks for gun purchases and regulation of assault weapons is maddening.
“Here we have a suspected terrorist, someone who was interviewed by the FBI three times, and he’s able to legally buy an assault weapon,” said Finizio, who noted that Saturday’s attack brought back memories of his brush own with terrorism.
“I was a survivor on the attack of the World Trade Center,” he said. “I was at the ground of the North Tower when the plane hit the south tower on 9/11.”
He says most outside of the LGBT community don’t understand that an attack on a gay club is like being violated in one’s home.
“It's place where we hold our fundraising benefits,” he said. “It's where we fought back against the AIDS crisis. It's where we organized for civil rights.”
Others who are part of the New London LGBT community are equally as shocked by the events in Orlando.
“When it happened, I was coming home from a gay bar,” said Aimee Spicer, of New London, whose drag king name is Johnny Deep. She says she’s got a problem with the fact that Muslims in America get a bad name after almost every terrorist-related attack.
“There's speak of him being affiliated with ISIS,” she said. “Like, that's not Muslim. I know a lot of Muslim people. They're not terrorists.”
O’Neill’s Brass Rail, a popular gathering spot for the gay community in New London, has security tight at all times, according to Spicer
“I've always felt really safe there,” she said. “They have security at both doors. They have security within the building.”
Spicer, who is a local DJ, says she hopes the gay and straight communities unite during this time.
“Bring out more glitter. Go to gay bars. Go to pride events and don't be ashamed, ever,” Spicer said, adding that the gay community can rise like a phoenix.
There will be a vigil on Tuesday, at 5:30 p.m. at New London’s Parade Plaza, near the train station, to honor the Orlando victims.