The owner of Pulse nightclub in Florida, where 49 people were killed in a 2016 mass shooting, has announced plans to build a private museum in honour of the victims. Survivors and families of victims however, have come forward in opposition.
According to their website, families and survivors have come together to form an organization called the Community Coalition Against a Pulse Museum, which aims to prevent any monetization of the tragedy. They argue that the nightclub should be demolished and any memorial should exist on public land with all fundraising efforts supporting the survivors and families of victims.
“Put people first. We care more about our survivors than educating tourists,” their website reads.
A total of forty-nine people were tragically killed and dozens were injured during the shooting in Orlando. The gunman died in a shootout with the police.
The owner of Pulse, Barbara Poma, who founded the nonprofit onePulse directly after the shooting, is leading the museum effort. The foundation is seeking to raise over $40 million to build the memorial and museum.
According to the foundation, the planned memorial would be at the nightclub’s location and the museum would be a few blocks away. The memorial is intended to be free while the museum will charge a small admission fee.
“The museum will tell the story of the victims, the tragedy, the community’s response, and provide a world-class education center to learn from the lessons of hate so they aren’t repeated,” according to the foundation. “Without a museum, there is no place to tell the story for future generations and we risk the tragedy being erased entirely over time.”
Poma had opened Pulse in 2004 as a tribute to her late brother who died from AIDS. She still owns the club and refused to sell it to the city of Orlando after the incident.
“We respect the thoughts and opinions of everyone in the community who was affected by this tragic event and are taking them all into consideration on how we move forward,” her foundation said in a statement on Wednesday.
Among the opposition is Christine Leinonen, whose 32-year-old son Drew died in the shooting. Leinonen had started an online petition pleading with the city council to stop the foundation, saying it’s “not a mockery, a place to gawk and line pockets. Not an Amusement Attraction.”
Leinonen had been an outspoken critic of Poma, and along with family members of other victims, sued Poma and her husband for inadequate security at the nightclub. Not all families of victims oppose the museum however, with some survivors backing the proposal.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Daphne Josaphat, whose nephew, Jason Josaphat, was killed in the shooting. “It has given us a place to go to continue grieving. It’s something that’s going to be there even after I’m gone. My kids will be able to see it and their kids will be able to see it.”