49 hours for the Orlando 49

September 6, 2016

Coy Jones is our Political Organizer in Orlando, Florida. One month after the Pulse Tragedy, she couldn’t just sit there and watch Senator Marco Rubio oppose gun control. So she joined a sit-in for at his office, 49 hours for the 49 victims. This is her story.

Orlando is the heart of Florida, and a microcosm of our Nation. I have lived here in the City Beautiful for over a decade, and in some way I’d like to think I have helped shape our city to be more inclusive and progressive.

When the tragedy at Pulse happened, terrorism hit home. After the 49 victims lost their lives by the hands of armed hate, our community stopped. Whether you were “a part” or “apart” of the LGBT community, it was our city that was senselessly attacked.

It was amazing to see the overwhelming support and selfless-ness that came out of this tragic incident. The never-ending lines of Orlando residents donating blood, passing out water and laying down flowers on our One-Orlando makeshift memorial. The feeling and mood was clear… everyone wanted to contribute in some way.

A month after the Pulse tragedy, there was an overwhelming need to start holding our elected officials accountable to do something. It was evident that politicians were pandering to our community and using the tragedy as a ploy to a political run. Former 2016 Presidential candidate and absent Senator Marco Rubio had the audacity to oppose gun control measures that could have saved the 49 Floridians that lost their lives.

Concerned citizens held healing circles and different organizations held private and public meetings. It was out of those conversations that we decided to visit Sen. Rubio to remind him what Orlandoans needs and how something like this should never happen again in our city.

The day of the “Sit-in for the 49” we stopped at the One Orlando Memorial and prayed in solidarity. Everyone was there! Members of the LGBTQ community, activists, people of faith, undocumented students, and even people that had never taken action before. We presented a platform that demanded real change in our gun safety laws, ending community violence and promoting equality. In honor of the 49 victims, we decided to peacefully sit-in at his office for 49 hours until he heard us.

For several hours we sat down and shared our stories, sang songs and shed many tears, until Sen. Rubio’s aide came to come speak to us and we were finally able to read our platform. When the Orlando Police gave us the 3rd warning to leave, we decided we had to stay there ‘til the end. Committing to stay for 49 hours was nothing compared to the 49 lives we lost and that Senator Rubio didn’t want to respect.

That day I saw two of my closest friends, Charlotte ChaCha Davis and Angelica Sugg Brown, get arrested when only three weeks prior they felt like they didn’t have a voice as African American LGBTQ promoters in this city. I also saw Ms. Joanne in her 80’s be taken away by police officers brandishing assault rifles and bullet proof vests. That day I knew we are stronger because our hearts were and forever will be connected.

A total of 10 people were arrested, but were released the next day. They have since been cleared off all the charges against them.

Since that day, we have not let Sen. Rubio visit anywhere Central Florida without reminding him that we don’t accept his disrespect to the 49 victims and their families, against the LGBTQ community and against Orlando. Very recently he was seen at an anti-LGBT conference with Trump right here in our backyard. The message is very clear: we have EVERYTHING to lose by electing Trump and Rubio..