Vigil held in Orlando and across nation for victims of Pulse Orlando shooting
ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Thousands of people gathered in Downtown Orlando on Monday evening, in front of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, to pay tribute to the victims of the mass shooting at Pulse Orlando nightclub.
Several community leaders took to the stage, including Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. "Yesterday, hate visited our Orlando. For reasons we don't fully understand, our city and our very way of life was attacked. Someone purposely sought out men and women of our LGBT community. He took the lives of 49 of our neighbors and loved ones and injured dozens more," said Mayor Dyer. "He murder, he murdered, sons and daughters, fathers and mothers and ended the dreams of many young people who were just starting their adult lives here in Orlando."
Many in the crowd said they were inspired to attend, because of where the massacre occurred, adding that Pulse played a huge role in their lives as gays and lesbians. "Pulse gave me confidence, made me realize I was normal and so much like everyone else," said Cathleen Daus, a former employee at the club.
Bells tolled at the nearby First United Methodist Church of Orlando as names of the victims were read. The crowd was filled with family, friends of loved ones of the victims who died or who were injured, as well as total strangers who came out in support of the community.
The front of the Arts Center changed from red, white and blue to the colors of the rainbow. It was an emotional night for those who lost loved ones but a great display of unity.
At nearby St. James Cathedral, many came together to pray in the midst of so much pain -- lighting candles to shine a light amid the darkness. “I think the sadness that our community feels brings us all to our knees and there’s no better place to be than in God’s house,” said Cathy Clark who attended the vigil.
St. James Cathedral held a "vigil to dry tears" to pray with the community, victims and families on the front lines of this tragedy -- coming together with other faiths in unity. “Tonight, you had every religion represented here, because we’re all in mourning, to show in a sense this is not about religion this is about something deeper, this is about unfortunately the world we live in today,” said Bishop John Noonan of the Diocese of Central Florida.
One of the victims, Luis Vielma, 22, was a member of the All Souls Church Catholic Church in Sanford. Parishioners who knew him also attended the vigil. After the service they said a special prayer for him and the other victims. “When we say let there be peace on earth, I think that just sums it up, there has to be peace on earth and we’ve got stop this,” said Sharon Lyons, who attended the vigil.
Bishop Noonan has also asked that all of the 91 parishes and missions in Central Florida include prayer intentions for the victims during Sunday Mass.
Vigils, rallies and marches were held around the country on Monday. Other events are planned for later this week. Police in many areas have promised heightened security for the events, which come during Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month.
Some of the events:
Thousands crowded the streets around the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan where large-scale gay rights activism got its start in 1969.
Under banners heralding the upcoming Pride Week event, people held hands and hugged. Some waved rainbow flags and others carried signs showing support for Orlando as they listened to a slew of elected officials, including New York Gov. 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. Read more at FOX5NY.com.
Just down Interstate 4 in Tampa, hundreds of people gathered in the streets of Ybor City to pay their respects to the victims of the Orlando Pulse shooting. "I'm cried out I can't cry anymore," said Mike Mangus.
Mangus lives in Tampa and performs in drag. He holds the title of the reigning Miss. Pulse Orlando. He was in Ybor City on the fateful night.
Several of the 49 victims are from the Tampa Bay area. Read more at FOX13News.com.
The rainbow colors of the gay pride flag flew Monday 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 Center has organized a rally and vigil outside City Hall on Monday evening, one of a number of events around the state.
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.
Tim Eicher, who co-owns four bars in the Castro, said he and the owners of other LGBT venues "are doing everything possible to ensure that we keep our employees and customers safe."
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Monday marched with hundreds of people during an event in Vermont honoring victims of the Orlando mass shooting.
Sanders and his wife, Jane, participated in the march in downtown Burlington that ended at City Hall Park. 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 Center of Vermont organized the march and vigil.
About 1,000 people attended a candlelight vigil Monday night outside a gay nightclub in Providence, followed by a march to the Statehouse steps.
With other vigils and memorials also scheduled around the state Monday and Tuesday — and the Rhode Island Pride Festival expected to draw 40,000 people Saturday in Providence — police are planning to provide more officers, dogs and other security measures for the events.
The head of the state police and members of the Providence Police Department met Monday with Pride Festival organizers and the owners of several gay bars.
"They are nervous, like any other community that was targeted for violence," State Police Superintendent Col. Steven O'Donnell said.
The Alaska House of Representatives stood for a moment of silence Monday to honor the Orlando victims, at the request of Rep. Matt Claman, a Democrat. The Senate doesn't have a floor session scheduled until Thursday.
Vigils were held around the state Monday, with one of the biggest in Denver's Cheesman Park. Meanwhile, organizers of Denver's PrideFest say next weekend's festival will go ahead with tight security, including metal detectors and fences.
More than two dozen human rights organizations have announced plans for a vigil and community gathering Tuesday night at Atlanta's Center for Civil and Human Rights. The groups include gay rights organizations, the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta and the Anti-Defamation League. Read more at FOX5Atlanta.com.
A vigil was held Monday evening in Sandpoint, a small lakefront town in the north of the state, among other events this week. Chelsea Gaona Lincoln, an LGBT-rights activist who helped organize the vigils, urged the public to help protect the rights of Idaho's gay community.
Organizers of the ongoing Boise Pridefest, Idaho's largest LGBT pride event, met with police Monday to talk security details and shift the route of the event's upcoming parade away from the heart of downtown, for safety's sake.
On Sunday, just hours after learning of the Florida shooting, Pridefest organizers fielded an intimidating comment on the event's Facebook page, director Rodney Busbee said. Organizers immediately reported the remark to authorities, Busbee said.
"In the past, I've had people text me or post that that they were going to kill me," Busbee said. "But that became a reality over the weekend."
Gov. John Bel Edwards described the Orlando shooting victims as "our brothers and sisters" during a vigil Monday with Louisiana's legislative leaders at the State Capitol in Baton Rouge. The Democratic governor and dozens of other politicians sang "Amazing Grace" together, and Edwards read a Bible passage.
"There is no room for terror and hate," he said.
In New Orleans, dozens gathered Monday at a church near the French Quarter to pray for the families and victims of the Orlando shooting. Clergy from a variety of faiths — Episcopal, Catholic, Jewish, Sikh, Methodist and Muslim — read a passage of scripture or recited a prayer to help begin the healing from the effects of the weekend massacre.
Stephanie Oshrin, 26, of New Orleans, quietly sat in a pew before the program started.
"In a time like this, community is real important to me," she said when asked why she decided to show up for the vigil. "I'm part of a community where there are not a lot of safe places and there's a real sadness that comes when one of those places you think are safe is violated."
At least nine Maine communities are holding vigils to honor victims in the attack on a nightclub in Florida.
Matt Moonen, executive director of EqualityMaine, said the events Monday evening "will enable us to come together to mourn those lost in Orlando."
Vigils were planned in Portland, Bangor, Auburn, Bar Harbor, Damariscotta, Hallowell, Farmington, Ellsworth and Machias. More are scheduled for later in the week.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake urged people at a vigil in the city Monday 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," she said. "We are hoping this ministry reaches our brothers and sisters in Orlando so they know that they are not alone."
As the sun set over Baltimore, the crowd swelled well beyond the confines of a grassy lot where the vigil was held. People dressed in bright colors clutching rainbow flags and signs of support spilled into the intersection, choking the streets and the sidewalk.
Hundreds of people gathered Monday night in Boston to pay tribute to the victims of the mass shooting.
Many of them carried rainbow-colored flags and signs calling for peace. At times they held and comforted each other. Speakers addressed the crowd in both English and Spanish.
Boston Mayor Martin Walsh and Gov. Charlie Baker attended the candlelight vigil at City Hall Plaza, which was organized by Walsh's office.
Advocacy groups held a vigil Monday evening at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The organizations included advocates for immigrant students, LGBT people and survivors of sexual assault or domestic violence.
Santa Fe Mayor Javier Gonzales announced plans for a public event honoring the shooting victims Monday on the 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.
Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley plans to attend a Monday night vigil at a downtown nightclub. Cranley, a Democrat, says he's proud to stand in solidarity with LGBT people "and to let the world know that Cincinnati is an inclusive and welcoming city."
The Morrison Bridge in downtown Portland was being illuminated in rainbow colors Monday night. The bridge featured a similar display last year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage.
The rainbow colors had already been slated to return for the city's annual Pride weekend, which starts Friday.
Philadelphia's LGBT community held an early evening vigil Monday outside City Hall in what organizers describe as an outpouring of "grief, love and solidarity for the victims in Orlando."
An evening march also is planned in the state capital, Harrisburg.
A Wednesday night vigil is planned in front of the Delaware County Courthouse in Media, organized by a local Unitarian Universalist church and a group pushing gun regulations.
A Muslim-American women's group held a candlelight vigil Monday night in Dupont Circle, the hub of a neighborhood near downtown. Organizers say the goal is to stand together against anti-gay, anti-transgender and anti-Muslim bias. Read more at FOX5DC.com.