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Urbana church remembers Colorado club shooting and transgender violence victims

An altar inside the Unitarian Universalist Church of Urbana-Champaign includes candles and a sign honoring transgender people who were killed in the past year.

URBANA – The deadly mass shooting at a Colorado nightclub was on the minds of Urbana churchgoers as they remembered transgender people who were violently killed.

Nearly 50 people gathered Sunday night at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Urbana-Champaign.

The vigil was already scheduled to remember transgender people murdered within the last year but had extra meaning because it came hours after a 22-year-old gunman opened fire with a semiautomatic rifle at a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Police say 5 people lost their lives and 25 were injured before the gunman was subdued by “heroic” patrons.

Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers said Sunday the attack at Club Q ended when someone grabbed a handgun from the suspect, struck him with it, then held him down until police arrived. The club called it a “hate attack” but investigators are still determining a motive and whether it will be charged as a hate crime. 

Sally Fritsche is the Associate Minister at Unitarian Universalist Church of Urbana-Champaign. They say the attack leaves members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning communities feeling vulnerable.

“You read the things that are being said about LGBTQ people,” said Fritsche, “and you see the level of hatred that’s being stoked. And it just feels inevitable that these kinds of hate crimes and mass murders are going to continue to happen.”

The Human Rights Campaign says violence against transgender and non-binary people has resulted in at least 300 deaths in America since 2013.

During the service, church leaders read the names of nearly 50 Trans Americans who were murdered within the last year. 

Fritsche says the event was a safe place to remind the public that people are being killed because of their identity.

“So that’s part of it too,” said Fritsche. “Making space to grieve, making space to be with your people and feel safe letting down the walls and mourning that loss.”

According to the HRC, these trans and non-binary Illinoisans were killed in 2022:

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Reginald Hardwick

Reginald Hardwick is the News & Public Affairs Director for the Illinois Newsroom. He started at WILL in October of 2019 after serving as News Director for WKAR in East Lansing, Michigan. Previously, he was a news producer and manager at the NBC station in Dallas, where he won 7 Emmy awards. Born in Vietnam, Reginald is a graduate of the University of Northern Colorado. Email: rh14@illinois.edu Twitter: @RNewsWILL

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