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US advocacy group reveals 2016 was deadliest year for LGBT community

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By Pierre Bertrand
US advocacy group reveals 2016 was deadliest year for LGBT community

A New York advocacy group has sounded the alarm as it is revealed more lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered people (LGBT) were killed last year in the United States than in the previous 20.

The report, released by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), coincides with the first year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub attack in Orlando, Florida in which an ISIL-inspired gunman attacked and killed 49 people.

Pulse was a popular gay club and though the terror attack there last June was one of the worst mass shootings in US history, violence against those who identify as LGBT was already on the rise in the US, according to the NCAVP report.

Excluding the victims of the Pulse nightclub attack, not all of whom were LGBT, 28 lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered Americans were killed in 2016. That number is four more than were killed the previous year and is the highest number since 2011.

“The enormous tragedy at Pulse Nightclub, in concert with the daily violence and discrimination that pervades our lives as LGBTQ people and an incendiary political climate, have created a perfect storm of fear and trauma for our communities this year,” said Melissa Brown, at the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project. “We must work to dismantle the biases, such as transphobia, biphobia, homophobia and racism which undergird all of this violence.”

The report collected data on more than 1,000 incidents of hate-inspired violence against the LGBT community in 11 US states. It found 2016 was the deadliest year on record for the LGBT community since record-keeping began in 1998.

Excluding the Pulse nightclub victims, the report found homicide rates increased by 17 percent between 2015 and last year.

The report said LGBT people of colour made up a majority of those killed. Nearly 80 percent of the victims were people of colour.

“Recent executive orders as well as ongoing efforts to pass anti-LGBT legislation and roll back protections at the city, state, and federal level make LGBT people vulnerable to identity-based discrimination as we go about our daily lives,” said Beverly Tillery from the NCAVP in New York in a statement. “These attacks on our communities send the message that discrimination and violence against LGBTQ people is acceptable.”

The NCAVP statistics comes amid reports of violence targeting LGBT people in Chechnya and as European countries struggle to prosecute against incidents of homophobic and transphobic violence.

An ILGA-Europe annual study on the human rights of LGBT people in Europe in 2016 found anti-gay hate crimes remain prevalent in several countries including Greece, Georgia, Moldova and Russia.

In Orlando, church bells tolled for the victims as numerous memorial services were held throughout the day as people observed the first year anniversary of the nightclub attack.