World

Before Orlando Shooting, Omar Mateen Worked for Human Rights Abusing Security Company G4S

Mateen worked as a security guard for nine years in the company that profits from both US border militarisation and the Israeli occupation.

Demonstration for a Palestine Solidarity Campaign against abuses by the security company G4S against Palestinian people. Credit: Flickr via Foreign Policy in Focus

Demonstration by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign against abuses by the security company G4S against Palestinian people. Credit: Flickr via Foreign Policy in Focus

How do we even talk about the horrific killings in Orlando, which left at least 50 LGBTQ revellers dead and more than 50 more injured in the middle of pride month? First we mourn. Then we rage. Then we hug our loved ones, especially our LGBTQ friends, comrades and family members.

Then we look again, and we see the horror — that this murderer was licensed to carry guns and had no trouble buying incredibly powerful military-style weapons. So casually. So legally. So common, across our country. That’s when we start to rage again.

More troubling still, Omar Mateen worked for a company that was perpetrating systemic violence against vulnerable people long before he took up arms against his LGBTQ neighbours. For nine years Mateen worked for G4S Security, a British-based corporation that contracts with the US and Israeli governments for work that often violates human rights on a massive scale.

G4S, which brags about having 600 staffers on the southern border, has contracts with US immigration authorities to deport people back to Mexico, often before they’ve had any real immigration hearing, as well as to run juvenile detention facilities. In Israel, meanwhile, G4S profits from providing equipment and services in Israeli prisons and interrogation centres where Palestinians are routinely tortured. It’s also involved in running Israeli military checkpoints in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Incidentally, G4S is the company that trained Mateen to work as an armed security guard, which licensed him to carry and use weapons. And although his coworkers told supervisors that Mateen “frequently made homophobic and racial comments,” the company did nothing. It kept him on board — and kept him armed. 

Should this company continue to profit from multi-million-dollar contracts with the US government?

Since 2012, there’s been a major campaign against G4S, resulting in decisions by major mainstream institutions — like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Methodist Church, numerous European universities, important charities in South Africa and the Netherlands, UN agencies in the Middle East and more — to divest from G4S holdings, or to cancel or not renew service contracts. G4S is profiting from exactly the kind of anti-Arab and anti-Latino racism, Islamophobia and xenophobia that are all on the rise in the US right now.  

If the early reports are accurate, G4S’s long-serving employee is responsible for the worst mass shooting in modern US history. 

And here let’s continue to be careful with our numbers. As my IPS colleague Karen Dolan and others have been pointing out, our nation’s origins are grounded in genocide and slavery. Earlier history has to take into account things like the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee, when between 150 and 300 children, women and men were gunned down. That mass shooting is part of our history, too.

But our nation’s history also includes the great movements that have risen against war, racism, sexism, homophobia and more. The party at Orlando’s Pulse club was part of a month-long Gay Pride celebration rooted in the extraordinary movement that grew out of the 1969 Stonewall revolt, when bar patrons fought back against police brutality toward gay men and lesbians.

June 12, the night of the massacre, happened to be Latin Night at the Pulse. Reverend William Barber, a leader of the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina, reminded me that June 12 is also the anniversary of the 1963 Mississippi assassination of the great civil rights leader Medgar Evers.

One more link between our movements — from Stonewall to Orlando and Mississippi to Palestine.

This article was originally published on Foreign Policy in Focus.