LGBTQ+ advocates say work remains as Colorado Springs marks anniversary of nightclub attack

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — After last November’s mass shooting at an LGBTQ+ nightclub in Colorado Springs, which turned a drag queen’s birthday party into a bloodbath, the conservative community was forced to reckon with its reputation for being unwelcoming to gays, lesbians and transgender people.

What motivated the shooter, who did not grow up in Colorado Springs and is now serving a life sentence, may never be known. But since the attack that killed five people, injured 17 others and shattered the sense of safety at Club Q, which served as a haven for the city’s LGBTQ+ community, Colorado Springs has taken steps to reshape itself as inclusive and hospitable.


A new LGBTQ+ resource center will open in the city, where an independent candidate surprisingly defeated a longtime Republican officeholder to become the first Black mayor of the city of about 480,000. And the owners of Club Q, which has been closed since November 19, 2022, are attacking, plan to build a memorial and reopen in a new location under the rebrand The Q.

Mayor Yemi Mobolade, a West African immigrant who has been mayor since June, said Friday that he knows “what it’s like to be on the outside looking in, to be a minority. And now that I am mayor of this great city, I bring that empathy to the mayor’s office.”

Mobolade said he has created a three-person community affairs office with one person whose emphasis “is to be very inclusive of minority communities, including the LGBTQ+ community.”

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But as the city prepares to come together on Sunday to celebrate the shooting anniversary, some LGBTQ+ advocates say there is still work to be done.

“It feels like there is some real fear in the community and it also feels like those who are against gay rights and people who live their lives are continuing to entrench themselves in those positions and do more politically to advance those views .” said Candace Woods, a queer pastor and chaplain who has called Colorado Springs home for nearly two decades.

Additional security is planned for the memorial events in case anti-LGBTQ activists gather to protest, as they did during this summer’s Pride events. Candidates backed by the conservative group Moms for Liberty, which opposes education about systemic racism and gender identity in the classroom, won recent school board elections, Woods noted.

Located at the foot of the Rockies and home to the Air Force Academy and several conservative megachurches, Colorado Springs has historically been conservative. Yet the city also has a growing and diversifying population that will surpass that of Denver by 2050, is home to a liberal arts college, and has marketed itself as an outdoor living boomtown.

On the night of the attack, Anderson Lee Aldrich walked into Club Q and began shooting indiscriminately. Clubgoers dived across a bloody dance floor for cover as friends frantically tried to protect each other.

The attack was stopped when a Navy officer grabbed the barrel of the suspect’s gun and burned his hand, and an Army veteran helped subdue and beat Aldrich until police arrived, authorities said.

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Sunday’s gathering outside Club Q, where Mobolade and Gov. Jared Polis are expected to attend, will allow people to “come together and act as one community,” the club said in announcing the event.

“Hate will not be tolerated in this city under my watch, and we are resolute,” Mobolade said Friday. “Our community will not be defined by the terrible acts at Club Q, but by our response to them. Our community has come a long way. and I understand that we still have a long way to go.”

Aldrich, who has not publicly revealed a motivation for the shooting, pleaded guilty in June to five counts of murder and 46 counts of attempted murder for each person who was in the club during the attack. Aldrich also pleaded no contest to two hate crimes and received five consecutive life sentences.

The attack came more than a year after Aldrich, who identifies as non-binary and uses the pronouns they and them, was arrested for threatening his grandparents and vowing to become “the next mass murderer” while carrying weapons, bulletproof was stocking vests and bomb-making materials.

Those charges were ultimately dismissed after Aldrich’s mother and grandparents refused to cooperate with prosecutors.


Associated Press writer Amy Beth Hanson in Helena, Montana, contributed to this report.