In the early hours of Saturday, June 25, a 42-year-old man opened fire outside the London Pub, a popular LGBTQ+ venue in Norway’s capital, Oslo, ahead of the country’s annual gay pride parade that was due to be held later the same day. Two people were killed, and 21 individuals were injured in the attack police consider being an act of extreme Islamist Terrorism. Despite the tragic event formally cancelled by the local police, hundreds of people chose to continue participating in the annual march. They laid Rainbow flags and flowers near the attack scene, chanting: “we’re here, we’re queer, we won’t disappear.”
Norway’s Prime Minister, Jonas Gahr Store, called the event “a cruel and deeply shocking attack on innocent people” in a series of Facebook posts as the Norwegian Security Service raised the terror alert level to its highest level. While the motive of the shooting is not clear, “There is reason to think that this may be a hate crime,” say police as the shooter, who has been arrested and charged with murder, attempted murder, and terrorist acts, was known to security services since 2015, as a suspected radicalized Islamist with a history of mental illness, according to Norway’s Police Security Services. Ultimately, the shooting took place a few months after Norway celebrated 50 years since the Nordic nation decriminalized homosexuality on April 21, 1971, section 213 of the Norwegian Penal code that prohibited same-sex relations. Since the repeal of the law, Norway has been a world leader in expanding LGBTQ rights by becoming the second country, after Denmark, to permit civil partnerships for same-sex couples in 1993 and legalizing marriage quality in 2009.
Known as ‘Pride Month,’ June holds special significance to LGBTQ+ communities as they come together and celebrate the freedom of gaining acceptance without prejudice in societies that historically discriminated against them. However, despite being a country where mass shootings are rare, this incident adds to the rise of attacks during pride marches across Europe, threatening the safety of individuals celebrating their freedom of expression and identity. Just recently, the feminist group Résistance Lesbienne released disturbing videos on Twitter of aggressors trying to burn women marching with a lit flare at a pride march in the port city of Bordeaux. Additionally, on June 4, approximately 30 men violently attacked a gay pride parade in the German town of Karlsruhe by beating participants and setting fire to gay pride flags, according to Karlsruhe criminal police.
In times like this, where violent attacks inject fear and safety concerns into Pride month, it is essential that LGBTQ+ communities can safely celebrate victories without the fear of attacks. For this reason, more attention should be placed on ensuring appropriate and official protection for pride marches to keep participants safe and alive by coordinating with local law enforcement, security firms, and increased police presence.