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LGBTQ+ community reflects on 6 years since Pulse nightclub shooting

'We're open, we're loving, we're here and we're all pretty much queer,' Hullabaloo manager says
Posted at 11:41 PM, Jun 12, 2022

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — June is Pride month and with celebrations happening in South Florida, people are remembering the 49 lives lost at the Pulse nightclub shooting six years ago in Orlando.

"I will never forget that day. I was not expecting to get emotional about this," said Gerald Arroyo-Prada as he held back his emotions reflecting on memories at Pulse.

Arroyo-Prada said Pulse was where he first experienced what it was like to be free and gay.

"I turn on the TV and the first thing that you start to think about is, 'Where are my friends? Where are the people that I consider family? Where are the people that were there to uplift me? Where are the drag queens?'" said Arroyo-Prada. "Where are all these people that I had spent years with, cultivating relationships, becoming a family? And although I was far removed, I still felt it because I knew how much that place meant to so many people in that community."

Through Pulse, Arroyo-Prada found his identity in drag. Now he performs as Ariel Rimm in honor of the 49 lives lost in the Pulse nightclub shooting.

"Those memories of those individuals, those souls, those families, that community are embedded in me because I'm still here," said Arroyo-Prada. "I'm able to represent and I'm able to kind of show people that it's OK to be who you want to be and be celebrated and be proud."

Aerial of Pulse nightclub after mass shooting in 2016
Law enforcement officials work at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on June 12, 2016, following a mass shooting. The shooter targeted gay patrons in what was a largely Latino crowd.

Arroyo-Prada performed in drag at events Saturday's Delray Beach Pride celebration and last week's "Pride on the Block" event in West Palm Beach, where businesses like Hullabaloo participated.

"We're open, we're loving, we're here and we're all pretty much queer," said Hullabaloo server Morgan Holly.

Staffers said they go through strict safety training, have security and are equipped with a web of surveillance throughout the 500 block of Clematis Street.

"All of us are owned by the same business on this block, so we kind of share security and communicate with each other pretty frequently, so if there was anything going on, we're aware of it pretty frequently," said Holly.

Hullabaloo hosts drag shows every Friday night as part of its mission of inclusivity and providing a safe establishment for the LGBTQ+ community in Palm Beach County.

"If you can come here and feel safe and open and be who you are, then we've done a good job," said Holly.

For drag shows and other Pride events, the city blocks off entrances to the 500 block of Clematis Street as added security.