In the wake of Sunday's massacre in an Orlando gay nightclub, the Twin Cities LGBTQ community needed an opportunity to mourn. Healing simply couldn't wait eight more days until the annual Twin Cities Pride Celebration.
An event was scrambled together in fewer than 12 hours — a Minneapolis bar crawl connecting five gay establishments that have long served as safe havens for the community. On Friday night, hundreds are expected to walk the streets en masse showing solidarity for the 49 victims killed and 53 others injured when a gunman terrorized a Latin dance party at Pulse nightclub.
"The queer bar is a sanctuary. More and more people are going out now, because I think it's comforting to be around other people, to talk about it and have a shared experience," said lead organizer Chad Kampe, who runs Flip Phone, a local LGBTQ events company.
"Something like [Orlando] is terrifying and frightening, but there's no use to hide behind closets or at home."
Kampe said the message will be clear: The gay community is here to stay.
Nearly 1,000 people have already RSVP'd on Facebook for the event, which runs from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday. Admittance will be free during that time frame at 19 Bar, The Saloon, Gay 90's (featuring drag queen Christina Jackson), eagleBOLTbar and Lush.
Rentmypartybus Inc. will provide free transportation between downtown's eagleBOLTbar and Lush in northeast Minneapolis.
Each of the five participating bars will offer drink specials, with proceeds going to support Orlando victims at the Equality Florida Pulse Victims Fund. Donations from bar crawlers are also encouraged.
After 10 p.m., a slew of other local gay bars will also host live music and drag shows.
Bars and nightclubs historically have hosted the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and allies during both hardships and legal victories, like last year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. On Sunday night, fewer than 24 hours after the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history, more than 500 people flocked to the Saloon to share a moment of silence.
The Pride festival kicks off June 25 in Minneapolis' Loring Park.