—Lew Oliver, chairman of the Orange County (Fla.) Republican Executive Committee, in an interview with Orlando NBC affiliate WESH about the decision to set up an office for the Republican Party, and specifically, for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, in Orlando, across the street from Pulse nightclub.
Some people have criticized the office’s location, especially given the Republican Party’s opposition to LGBT rights and Donald Trump’s perceived hostility to Latinos. Those critics point out that most of the 49 people killed in the Pulse nightclub massacre in June were Latinos.
Oliver said that the Republican Party had sent out an email looking for space for a campaign office, and the owner of the property, a GOP supporter, offered it. Oliver says the party accepted the offer, but didn’t know of the exact location until last week, when volunteers started setting up shop.
Randy Ross, an openly gay political activist and the chairman of Orange County for Trump, echoed Oliver’s comments, saying there was no intent to offend anyone, but rather to reach out to the community.
“It was an attack on the gay community. It was an attack on the Hispanic community. But moreover, it was an attack on Americans,” Ross said of the June 12 massacre at Pulse.
“Candidly, we see it as an opportunity,” he said of the office opening near Pulse. “We want to be able to embrace the tragedy that took place there, and if they want to come in or they want to use the restroom or want a refreshment we will provide that to them as well.”
Ross was in the news last week after he spoke at a pro-Trump rally in Kissimmee, Fla. As first reported by the gay blog Queerty, Ross gave an introduction touting his support for Trump and attacking Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, saying: “She will say anything to get elected.” By putting LGBT supporters front and center, and hammering Clinton on what they feel is her weakness in standing up to radical Islam, Trump and other Republicans appear to be trying to peel away LGBT supporters from Clinton.
But so far, the Republicans’ outreach efforts aren’t winning them any fans among people who are visiting the makeshift memorial at the site of the nightclub.
“I think it’s really inappropriate because they know how we feel about Trump,” Edwin Rosario told WESH. “I think it’s very disrespectful, to me. Take it somewhere else.”
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