Norway mourns victims of Oslo shooting outside LGBTQ+ club: ‘Bullets cannot kill love’
Norway’s prime minister and royal family joined mourners for a memorial service in Oslo Catherdral after a gunman laid siege to an LGBTQ+ nightclub.
On Saturday night (25 June) a 42-year-old man opened fire outside the London Pub, the Herr Nilsen jazz club and a takeaway, killing two and injuring at least 21.
The suspect, named by Norwegian media as Zaniar Matapour, has been charged with attempted murder and terrorist acts.
The shooting, which took place on a warm Summer evening only hours before Oslo Pride, shuddered fear throughout the city’s LGBTQ+ community.
Oslo Pride swiftly cancelled the parade at the advice of police – only for thousands of people carrying flowers and rainbow flags to stage a defiant spontaneous Pride march instead.
But away from the chants and cheers of the march, a small group of people gathered in Oslo Cathedral on Sunday morning to grieve the lives lost.
Mourners in muted colours gathered in front of the cathedral altar draped in the rainbow colours of the LGBTQ+ Pride flag and decorated with vibrant flowers and small flags.
Among those attending the service was prime minister Jonas Gahr Støre, the Associated Press news agency reported.
“The shooting in the night hours put an end to the Pride parade,” said sombre Støre said, “but it has not put an end to the fight to end discrimination, prejudice and hate.”
He praised those who filled the streets of Oslo with joy, tears and rage following the mass shooting.
“During the day, the city was full of people who wanted to speak out, about sorrow and anger, but also about support and solidarity and the will to continue fighting, for the right of every individual to live a free life, a safe life,” Støre said.
“Bullets cannot kill love,” added the head of the Norwegian Protestant Church, Olav Fykse Tveit.
The church was once a steadfast critic of LGBTQ+ rights, such as marriage equality. But not anymore, Tveit said – and the world needs to do the same.
“We see that we can learn, sometimes in spite of ourselves, that diversity is a present, a richness, and that many homosexuals have a capacity for love that we are incapable of,” he said.
Norway’s crown princess Mette-Marit and Masud Gharahkhani, president of Norway’s parliament the Storting, also attended the service.
Matapour, a former plumber from Iranian Kurdistan, arrived in Norway as a refugee at 12 years old, police officials have said.
Norway’s Police Security Service (PST) are considering the incident an “extreme Islamist terror act” given fears the suspect had been radicalised by an Islamist network.
Addressing Norway’s Muslim community Støre said: “I know how many of you felt when it turned out that the perpetrator belonged to the Islamic community. Many of you experienced fear and unrest.
“You should know this: We stand together, we are one community and we are responsible for the community together.”
Though his motivation remains unclear, the timing and location – being only around 350 metres from where Oslo Pride was scheduled to be held – raised concerns the LGBTQ+ community may have been the target.
The London Pub, in the bustling southeast borough of Sentrum, has been a mainstay of Oslo’s queer nightlife scene since it opened in the 1970s. Oslo Pride was set to take place in the Pride Park at Spikersuppa before the highlight of the 10-day festival was cancelled.
“These misdeeds remind us of this. This fight is not over. It is not safe from dangers,” added Støre.
“But we are going to win it, together.”