Saturday 3 December 2016

Thousands attend vigils all across US for tragic victims of deadly Orlando massacre

Published 14/06/2016 | 06:39

Police continue to investigate a shooting at the Pulse night club following an early morning shooting attack in Orlando, Florida, U.S June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Steve Nesius
Police continue to investigate a shooting at the Pulse night club following an early morning shooting attack in Orlando, Florida, U.S June 12, 2016. REUTERS/Steve Nesius
Emotional family members of the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting leave a family reunification center set up at the Beardall Senior Center,

Vigils, rallies and marches are being held around the US for the victims of the attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

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Police in many areas have promised heightened security for the events, which come during Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month.

NEW YORK

Thousands crowded the streets around the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan where large-scale gay rights activism got its start in 1969.

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Under banners heralding the upcoming Pride Week, people held hands and hugged. Some waved rainbow flags and others carried signs showing support for Orlando as they listened to elected officials including New York governor Andrew Cuomo and mayor Bill de Blasio.

Spectators watched from fire escapes and windows of nearby apartment buildings as chants of "love beats hate" rang from the crowd.

FLORIDA

In the city where the shooting happened, thousands of people gathered to support victims and survivors.

Many in the crowd in central Orlando said they were inspired to attend because the Pulse nightclub, where the massacre occurred, played a huge role in their lives as gays and lesbians.

"Pulse gave me confidence, made me realise I was normal and so much like everyone else," said Cathleen Daus, a former employee at the club.

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Stanley Almodovar III
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The vigil was held on the lawn of the Dr Phillips Centre, the area's main performing arts venue. It is also the location of a makeshift memorial where people have been leaving flowers, candles and notes for the victims.

CALIFORNIA

The rainbow colours of the gay pride flag flew on the side of the California Capitol and on the floor of the Senate - a first for the Senate, according to president pro tem Kevin de Leon, a Democrat.

In southern California, the Los Angeles LGBT Centre organised a rally and vigil outside City Hall.

In San Francisco, home to one of the nation's largest gay communities, police said more officers would be patrolling popular LGBT venues and local mosques in the weeks ahead. The city's gay pride celebration and parade are set for June 25 and 26.

Scott Wiener, who represents the Castro District on the city Board of Supervisors, said he intends to host a meeting this week to involve owners of gay nightclubs, bars and restaurants in planning discussions with police.

VERMONT

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders marched with hundreds of people from central Burlington to City Hall Park. Mr Sanders spoke briefly, encouraging the crowd to help "create the kind of nation based on love that we all know we can become". The Pride Centre of Vermont organised the march and vigil.

RHODE ISLAND

About 1,000 people attended a candlelight vigil outside a gay nightclub in Providence, followed by a march to the Statehouse steps.

With other vigils and memorials also scheduled around the state - and the Rhode Island Pride Festival expected to draw 40,000 people on Saturday in Providence - police are planning to provide more officers, dogs and other security measures.

The head of the state police and members of the Providence Police Department met Pride Festival organisers and the owners of several gay bars.

"They are nervous, like any other community that was targeted for violence," State Police Superintendent Colonel Steven O'Donnell said.

ALASKA

The Alaska House of Representatives stood for a moment of silence to honour the Orlando victims, at the request of Representative Matt Claman, a Democrat.

COLORADO

Vigils were held around Colorado, with one of the biggest in Denver's Cheesman Park. Meanwhile, organisers of Denver's PrideFest say next weekend's festival will go ahead with tight security, including metal detectors and fences.

GEORGIA

More than two dozen human rights organisations have announced plans for a vigil and community gathering at Atlanta's Centre for Civil and Human Rights. The groups include gay rights organisations, the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta and the Anti-Defamation League.

HAWAII

The non-profit organisation Maui Pride is holding a night-time vigil on the beach in front of the Maui Sunseeker LGBT Resort. State and local officials will speak and Jaysen Giroux, a 14-year-old transgender boy, will recite a poem he wrote after the attacks. In Honolulu, Rainbow Family 808 will host a gathering at Honolulu Hale, where the city government and mayor's office are housed, to watch as rainbow lights illuminate the building.

IDAHO

A vigil was held in Sandpoint, a small lakefront town in the north of the state, among other events. Chelsea Gaona Lincoln, an LGBT rights activist who helped organise the vigils, urged the public to help protect the rights of Idaho's gay community.

Organisers of the ongoing Boise Pridefest, Idaho's largest LGBT pride event, met police to talk security details and shift the route of the event's upcoming parade away from the heart of the city centre, for safety's sake.

LOUISIANA

Governor John Bel Edwards described the Orlando shooting victims as "our brothers and sisters" during a vigil with Louisiana's legislative leaders at the State Capitol in Baton Rouge.

In New Orleans, dozens gathered at a church near the French Quarter to pray for the families and victims.

MAINE

Several Maine communities held vigils including Portland, Bangor, Auburn, Bar Harbour, Damariscotta, Hallowell, Farmington, Ellsworth and Machias. More are scheduled later in the week.

Matt Moonen, executive director of EqualityMaine, said the events "will enable us to come together to mourn those lost in Orlando".

MARYLAND

Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake urged people at a vigil in the city to stand together against hatred.

"There are times like this when words seem insufficient because of the measure of hate it would take to have to do what they did to innocent people," she said. "And then, I think the only way to combat that hate is not a ministry of words, but of presence. Just being here is speaking volumes about who we are as Baltimoreans. We stand together."

As the sun set over Baltimore, the crowd swelled well beyond the confines of a grassy lot where the vigil was held.

MASSACHUSETTS

Hundreds of people gathered in Boston. Many carried rainbow-coloured flags and signs calling for peace. At times they held and comforted each other. Speakers addressed the crowd in English and Spanish.

Mayor Martin Walsh and governor Charlie Baker attended the candlelight vigil at City Hall Plaza.

NEVADA

Advocacy groups held a vigil at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The organisations included advocates for immigrant students, LGBT people and survivors of sexual assault or domestic violence.

NEW MEXICO

Santa Fe mayor Javier Gonzales announced plans for a public event honouring the shooting victims on Santa Fe Plaza, the landmark square that has served as the capital city's central gathering spot for hundreds of years. A vigil also is planned in a park in Farmington, a mid-sized city near the Colorado border.

OHIO

Cincinnati mayor John Cranley plans to attend vigil at a city nightclub. Mr Cranley, a Democrat, says he is proud to stand in solidarity with LGBT people "and to let the world know that Cincinnati is an inclusive and welcoming city".

OREGON

The Morrison Bridge in central Portland was illuminated in rainbow colours, which had already been slated to return for the city's annual Pride weekend, which starts on Friday.

PENNSYLVANIA

Philadelphia's LGBT community held an early evening vigil outside City Hall in what organisers described as an outpouring of "grief, love and solidarity for the victims in Orlando".

An evening march also is planned in the state capital, Harrisburg.

TEXAS

Dozens of mourners converged on Metropolitan Community Church of Corpus Christi, where members of the south Texas coastal city's LGBT community comprise a majority of the congregation. Deacon Andy Wilcox said bringing members of the community together was important for comfort and healing - "When you share a burden, it gets light."

WASHINGTON DC

A Muslim-American women's group held a candlelight vigil in Dupont Circle, the hub of a neighbourhood near the city centre. Organisers say the goal is to stand together against anti-gay, anti-transgender and anti-Muslim bias.

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