Local LBGTQ+ community stands in solidarity after Colorado Springs shooting

Published: Nov. 22, 2022 at 10:42 PM CST
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The LGBTQ+ community is still grappling with the recent shooting in Colorado Springs that left five dead and at least nineteen injured.

However, they are also using that incident to support one another.

The local LGBTQ center in Panama City held a press conference Tuesday afternoon to show unity and to speak out against what they believe are hate crimes.

“It’s important for us to stand tall in these moments and stand in solidarity with those who may be hurting across the country,” said Michele Smallwood, president of the Gulf Coast LGBTQ Center.

The center is meant to serve as a safe haven for those who may not feel accepted for their sexuality, race, or religion.

“We always show up and we make sure we are loud and proud and that people know we’re here and we’re not going anywhere,” Smallwood said.

That message of unity carried on throughout the day and into the evening.

Thistle & Thorne owner Sierra Latham attended the press conference at the center.

“I can’t even describe how it makes me feel to see these people carry what they’re going to carry now,” Latham said.

She made an exception to open her doors on what usually is a closed day for her business.

Latham said 30% of all proceeds will be donated to victims’ families in Colorado Springs. Cash donations were also accepted.

Thistle & Thorne is also meant to be a safe space for the LGBTQ+ community in Bay County.

“I came out here tonight because it’s really important to be visible and to send a message of support to all of those folks who kind of fit the mold that we do,” said Christine Smallwood, a patron of Thistle & Thorne.

The LGBTQ+ community isn’t backing down, either.

“Don’t let what happened in Colorado Springs or what happened six years ago down in Orlando stop you from being who you are,” said William Shurbutt-Rardin, a patron of Thistle & Thorne. “True self is what’s important.”

You can find more information about the Gulf Coast LGBTQ Center on this website.