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The UCF Police Department commemorated the victims and survivors of the Pulse nightclub shooting with its #OrlandoStrong patrol car on the morning of July 8, 2016. Shana Medel, Central Florida Future

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In honor of the victims and the survivors of the Pulse nightclub shooting, the UCF Police Department unveiled a tribute outside of the Student Union on Friday morning: a patrol car with a rainbow-striped decal and the hashtag #OrlandoStrong.

“If there’s ever a time that as Americans we have to figure out that we have to respect each other and care about each other, it’s today,” UCF Police Chief Richard Beary said. “It’s now in this country.”

The attack, which happened at a popular gay nightclub in downtown Orlando, sparked nationwide discussion about homophobia and discrimination against LGBTQ+ communities. In showing support for the victims, UCFPD said it hoped to show its commitment to diversity.

“Our job is to protect everyone,” Beary said. “We just wanted to show our support for the gay and lesbian community and that we’re here for you and we’re part of the solution.”

Senior art major Britney Alabre and freshman mechanical engineering major Kody Plummer said they expected to watch the reveal, not be a part of it. They helped peel off the old black letters spelling ‘Police’ on the side of the #OrlandoStrong patrol car, revealing the new rainbow-colored letters.

As members of the LGBTQ+ community, Alabre and Kody said they agreed that UCF promotes diversity.

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“Honestly, I would never expect the police to say something about it,” Alabre said of UCFPD’s support for LGBTQ+ students. “And just seeing so many people show so [much] support for [the] LGBT community, it really opened my eyes because growing up you never see this … this is like a big statement to me.”

In addition to the decal painted in the rainbow colors of the pride flag, the vehicle had a smaller sticker near its back window to commemorate the 49 lives lost.

“We can never forget 49 individuals lost their lives at the hands of a terrorist,” Beary said. “Forty-nine people. This 49 [sticker] will be on every UCF police car from this day forward as we roll them out.”

Beary said UCFPD is not scared to support the LGBTQ+ community. He noted that two of the victims were “part of the UCF family” and said it was important to recognize them.

“We are not the least bit afraid to show that support and make sure that everybody feels safe at our campus and at all the events that we host here,” Beary said.

Courtney Gilmartin, the UCFPD public information officer, said that the smaller 49 stickers will eventually be available for people to buy. She said that UCFPD thought the Orlando community would appreciate the gesture and want to take part in honoring the victims and survivors of the Pulse massacre.

This new #OrlandoStrong tribute is part of UCF’s overall reaction to the tragedy, which has included a slew of vigils, blood drives and other memorials.

“Everyone coming together has just been so beautiful and it just reminds me how proud I am to be a Knight,” said Rachel Altfield, the UCF student body vice president. “I think it’s really important that we don’t forget that this happened and that we just continue to be supportive. We lost a Knight. We can’t forget that.”

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Allison Miehl is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.

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