TAMPA, Fla.—Four years ago, a gunman shot and killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Now, one group hopes to honor victims by getting voters to the ballot box.
Brandon Wolf was at Pulse with his friends, Juan and Drew, on June 12, 2016.
“I stepped into the bathroom to wash my hands, and I heard gunshots,” said Wolf. “I remember the feeling of panic. I remember the debate in the bathroom that I was in whether I should run or hide. I remember the sprint for an emergency exit door that I didn’t know existed. And I remember the first time feeling my heart break when I learned that Drew and Juan, in ordinary fashion, had been dancing with each other in the middle of the dance floor when that man fired 13 rounds into both of them.”
Both of his friends died in that shooting. Wolf then made a promise.
“I looked down at the casket and I just said, ‘I will never stop fighting for a world that you will be proud of,'" said Wolf.
Wolf is also part of Equality Florida, the state’s largest LGBTQ rights group. The organization launched an election outreach program targeting 500,000 pro-equality voters in Florida.
“Thoughts and prayers aren’t enough,” said Equality Florida Senior Political Director Joe Saunders. “You’ve got to honor them with action by taking action, and this year we think that means making a plan to vote.”
Making a plan to vote is the theme of the “Honor Them With Action” movement this year. The organization’s goal with the program is to make sure people update voter registration, have the tools to educate themselves on where candidates stand on equality and sign up for mail-in ballots.
This launch is happening in the wake of George Floyd’s death and a nationwide call for change.
“The way that the consciousness of the country is waking up to an epidemic of violence, of racially motivated violence, it cuts right at the intersection of how many of us think about Pulse,” said Saunders.
Wolf thinks his friends would be proud of the work they’re doing. He also sees the parallels of the country now from four years ago.
“I think Orlando laid the blueprint post-Pulse. It wasn’t just LGBTQ people who showed up in the streets the next day. It wasn’t just Latinx or black people who showed up. It was everyone from every part of our community,” said Wolf. “I see the same things happening right now post-George Floyd’s murder. It’s not just black people in the streets protesting. It is everyone from all corners of our community standing up and saying enough is enough.”
To find more information about the Honor Them With Action campaign, click here.