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Hillcrest community on edge after LGBTQ shooting, but standing up to hate

A march and vigil will be held in Hillcrest tonight to show support for the LGBTQ community after Saturday’s deadly shooting at a nightclub in Colorado Springs. A 22-year-old man has been arrested in the shooting, and is being held on murder and hate crime charges. Published reports say the suspect is related to a San Diego-area assemblyman. KPBS has not been able to confirm those reports. KPBS reporter Kitty Alvarado has more.<br/>

In the Hillcrest community of San Diego, the tragedy is personal.

The Pride Flag and Monument on University and Normal has become a shrine for the people who died or were injured in Saturday's shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs. The flag has been lowered to half staff.

Francisco Medavog went there to gather his thoughts Monday. "It has been very, very hard," Medavog said as he broke down in tears.

He's lived in Hillcrest for 20 years. "This means a lot for us. This (flagpole) is like our safe haven when something happens — anything happens — we always come over here."

Medavog said it feels like they haven’t healed from the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Fla when 49 people were killed "It’s really, really hard for everybody to be able to cope and comprehend what’s going on with so much hate around the world," he said, "with our community, we’re always fighting for this not to happen — and it happened again." 

Medavog also said it felt like their community has been constantly under attack lately. "We’re always watching our back," he said, adding how he felt lucky to live in Hillcrest. "I feel safe in my city. I just don’t feel safe out of this neighborhood," he said.

Ben Nicholls with the Hillcrest Business Association said people have to understand that a nightclub is not just a nightclub for people who are LGBTQ, but for those who are unable to safely express themselves in public.

"To strike at the heart of a nightclub is just a terrible tragedy for the community, and it strikes at the heart of the safe spaces that this community has created," he said.  

Nicholls said lately there have even been tensions in Hillcrest. "Not long ago, we had people come out to protest a children's trick-or-treating that we had in the neighborhood, because it was organized by the transgender community ... Those protesters just set this tone of nervousness that ... these people feel like they can come out and really threaten the neighborhood."

He said the event required full police presence, and he said there have been other instances where people have come out to harass people at bars and other events.

On Monday evening, the LGBTQ community and allies planned a town hall meeting, march and vigil in honor of the shooting victims. "LGBTQ folks and their straight allies are going to come together and we’re going to be stronger as a result," Nicholls said, "because that’s part of the history of this neighborhood and part of the history of the community, we lean into these things and we’re stronger at the end." 

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