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You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines, or for in-depth stories that expose government and corporate abuses of power. We produce our daily news hour at a fraction of the budget of a commercial news operation, all without ads, government funding or corporate underwriting? This is only possible with your support. Right now every donation to Democracy Now! will be doubled by a generous supporter. This means if you give $25 today, Democracy Now! will get $50 to support our daily news hour. Please do your part. It takes just a couple of minutes to make sure that Democracy Now! is there for you and everybody else in the coming year. Thanks so much. -Amy Goodman
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Vigils are being held across the country following what has been described as the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. At least 50 people died in Orlando, Florida, early Sunday morning after a gunman identified as 29-year-old Omar Mateen opened fire at a packed gay dance club on Latin night. More than 50 others were injured. Three hours after the shooting began, authorities say the gunman was shot dead when police raided the club. The shooting was the deadliest attack on the LGBT community in American history, and it came in the middle of Pride month. President Obama addressed the nation on Sunday.
President Barack Obama: “This is an especially heartbreaking day for all of our friends, our fellow Americans, who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The shooter targeted a nightclub where people came together to be with friends, to dance and to sing, and to live. The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub, it is a place of solidarity and empowerment, where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds and to advocate for their civil rights.”
Since 2007, the suspected gunman, Omar Mateen, had worked as a security guard at G4S, the largest private security firm in the world. He was born in New York to Afghan parents in 1986. The FBI interviewed Mateen in 2013 and 2014 for possible terrorist ties. According to The New York Times, he was placed under FBI surveillance for a time, but the agency eventually closed its inquiry. There are reports Mateen called 911 around the time of the assault and declared his allegiance to ISIS, but no audio of the call has been released to the public. Mateen’s father told NBC that his son had been angered after seeing two men kissing in Miami. Mateen’s former wife told reporters that he was mentally unstable and used to beat her.
One of the guns used by Mateen at the Pulse nightclub was an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle. The gun was also used in the massacres at Sandy Hook Elementary School; the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater; and at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California. AR-15-style rifles like Mateen’s were once illegal under the federal assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004. Trevor Velinor of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms said Mateen purchased his guns legally.
Trevor Velinor: “Yes, ATF has traced those firearms. We know that this individual did purchase at least two firearms. He is not a prohibited person, so he can legally walk into a gun dealership and acquire and purchase firearms. He did so, and he did so within the last week or so. And thus far, we’re following up on that, so I’m not going to get into the detail as to the specific location of the purchase. But he did purchase two firearms—a handgun and a long gun—within the last few days.”
The Pulse nightclub shooting came just over a day after another fatal shooting in Orlando. On Friday, a man identified as Kevin James Loibl fatally shot singer Christina Grimmie as she signed autographs after a concert. Known as a contestant on the show “The Voice,” Grimmie was 22 years old. Orlando Police Chief John Mina described the attack.
John Mina: “This white male approached her and opened fire, striking her. At that—almost immediately, her brother, Marcus Grimmie, tackled the suspect to the ground. Shortly after that, the suspect killed himself. And obviously, as we know, unfortunately, Christina Grimmie succumbed to those gunshot wounds and passed. The suspect had two handguns on his person. He had two additional loaded magazines for those handguns and a large hunting knife.”
His comments came after Hewlett-Packard CEO and Republican donor Meg Whitman reportedly compared Trump to Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini during a closed-door meeting on Friday.
In Syria, ISIS has claimed responsibility for suicide and car bombings that reportedly killed at least 20 people in a suburb of the capital Damascus. Meanwhile, the Syrian government has reportedly dropped barrel bombs on Darayya, another Damascus suburb, just hours after it received its first delivery of food aid since 2012. Residents said the raids began as people gathered to collect the much-needed food. This comes as at least 39 people have been reported killed in airstrikes blamed on either the Syrian regime or Russian forces in the Syrian province of Idlib.
In Bangladesh, authorities say they have arrested more than 8,500 people over the course of four days as part of a nationwide crackdown they say is aimed at stopping violence against religious minorities and secular bloggers. Opponents say Bangladesh is using the effort to target political dissidents.
In Germany, thousands of people formed a human chain around a U.S. Air Force base to protest the U.S. drone wars. Ramstein Air Base hosts a station that relays communications between drone operators in the United States and the drones they pilot abroad. Clement Walter was among the protesters.
Clement Walter: “I am here because I don’t agree with American weapons, American rockets being directed toward other countries from German soil. We do not have to tolerate that. Above all, I am thinking about our children. I want them to understand that there must not be any war carried out from German soil.”
Bahraini human rights activist Zainab Alkhawaja has fled Bahrain amid warnings she could be arrested for a 12th time. Alkhawaja was released in May after two months imprisoned with her infant son. She has fled to Denmark, telling The New York Times Bahraini officials had warned the Danish Embassy she could be rearrested within months and separated from her son. Bahrain is a close U.S. ally, home to the Navy’s Fifth Fleet.
The Senate is set to consider a bipartisan bill to create a federally appointed control board to address Puerto Rico’s debt crisis. The measure passed the House last week. Speaking on the House floor, Illinois Congressmember Luis Gutiérrez blasted fellow Democrats for supporting the control board he compared to the unelected emergency manager who switched the water supply in Flint, Michigan, poisoning the city’s residents.
Rep. Luis Gutiérrez: “I expect my Democrats to join me in opposing that same type of unelected control board that has no accountability to the people that it is controlling, the kind of control board focused on austerity without examining the consequences of their actions for the people, the kind of control board that made decisions in Flint, Michigan—Flint, Michigan—that poisoned the people, that they were not ever elected.”
In Texas, two valedictorians have publicly announced they are undocumented. In Austin, Texas, Mayte Lara Ibarra, who plans to attend University of Texas at Austin on a scholarship, tweeted, “Valedictorian, 4.5GPA, full tuition paid for at UT, 13 cords/medals, nice legs, oh and I’m undocumented.” Further north in McKinney, Texas, Larissa Martinez, who is heading to Yale University, disclosed her status during her address to her class.
Larissa Martinez: “I am one of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the shadows of the United States. I decided to stand before you today and reveal these unexpected realities, because this might be my only chance to convey the truth to all of you that undocumented immigrants are people, too … people with dreams, aspirations, hopes and loved ones, people like me, people who have become a part of the American society and way of life and who yearn to help make American great again—without the construction of a wall built on hatred and prejudice.”
Both young women have been subjected to a barrage of hatred on social media.
The digital media outlet Gawker has declared bankruptcy and put itself up for sale. The move comes after Gawker was ordered to pay $140 million in a lawsuit for publishing the sex tape of wrestler Hulk Hogan. Hogan’s lawsuit was financially backed by Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, who was outed as gay by a now-defunct Gawker blog.
More than 20,000 people packed a sports arena in Louisville, Kentucky, Friday to bid farewell to heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali. Ali will also be remembered for his activism against war and racism. His daughter, Maryum Ali, spoke at the interfaith funeral.
Maryum Ali: “Your family is so proud of the legacy you left behind. But I hope that the history of you can help turn the tide of self-hate and violence, because we are overwhelmed with moments of silence for tragic deaths. Here on this soil, American soil, in the Middle East or anywhere else in this world, we crave for peace, the peace that you rest in now.”
And the attacks in Orlando took center stage at the Tony Awards Sunday night. Host James Corden honored the victims.
James Corden: “Good evening. All around the world, people are trying to come to terms with the horrific events that took place in Orlando this morning. On behalf of the whole theater community and every person in this room, our hearts go out to all of those affected by this atrocity. All we can say is you are not on your own right now. Your tragedy is our tragedy. Theater is a place where every race, creed, sexuality and gender is equal, is embraced and is loved. Hate will never win. Together, we have to make sure of that. Tonight’s show stands as a symbol and a celebration of that principle. This is the Tony Awards.”
The Broadway hit “Hamilton” won 11 Tony Awards, including best musical. Creator Lin-Manuel Miranda delivered a sonnet about the Orlando attacks.
Lin-Manuel Miranda: “When senseless acts of tragedy remind us / That nothing here is promised, not one day / This show is proof that history remembers / We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger / We rise and fall and light from dying embers / Remembrances that hope and love lasts longer / And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love / Cannot be killed or swept aside, / I sing Vanessa’s symphony, Eliza tells her story / Now fill the world with music love and pride. Thank you so much for this.”