The owner of Club Q and two survivors from the massacre that took five lives there on the eve of Transgender Remembrance Day testified before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Wednesday. In their testimony, all three spoke out against hate-based rhetoric from conservative leaders which, they said, led to the deadly assault.
“To the politicians and activists who accuse LGBTQ people of grooming children and being abusers: shame on you,” said Michael Anderson, a club employee present on the night of the shooting. “As leaders of our country, it is your obligation to represent all of us, not just the ones you happen to agree with.”
He continued, “Hate speech turns into hate action, and actions based on hate almost took my life from me at 25 years old.”
Anderson, who worked as a bartender at Club Q, described his experiences from that night, including watching his friend, a fellow employee, bleed out from his injuries. “I had to tell him goodbye while I continued to fear for my life, not knowing if the attack was truly over.”
James Slaugh, a patron of the bar, also recounted his experience from that night. He, his boyfriend, and sister were leaving the club when the gunmen entered, shooting Slaugh in the arm, his boyfriend in the leg, and his sister multiple times. All three survived their injuries.
Slaugh testified that “Hate rhetoric from politicians, religious leaders, and media outlets is at the root of the attacks like at Club Q, and it needs to stop now.”
He also testified that “The fear-based and hateful rhetoric surrounding the LGBTQ+ community, especially around trans individuals and drag performers, leads to violence. It incites violence. We shouldn’t have to fear being shot when we go to our safe spaces, or anywhere for that matter.”
Founder and owner of Club Q, Matthew Haynes, also testified before the committee, asking leaders to “drop the politics” and instead concentrate their efforts on supporting people. He has also said that he plans on reopening Club Q.
“One man full of hate will not destroy us,” he said, adding, “We need safe places like Club Q more than ever. And we need you, our leaders, to support and protect us.”
The shooter in the deadly attack, Anderson Lee Aldrich, has been charged with over 305 counts, including murder, attempted murder, and bias-motivated crimes.