LGBTQ Community Mourns Victims Of Orlando Shooting

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Above Photo: An open mike was available for anyone to share their thoughts and feelings in the aftermath of the Orlando shooting./ Photo by John Zangas

Washington, DC — Victims of the June 12 shooting at an Orlando, Fl., gay nightclub were remembered in two vigils in Washington, DC. Now pronounced the country’s deadliest mass shooting ever, the massacre was carried out by a lone gunman armed with a semi-automatic weapon who killed 49 people and injured 53 more at the Pulse nightclub. Hundreds of people in the Washington LGBTQ community and their supporters joined two separate gatherings at the White House and DuPont Circle to express feelings of grief, fear and anger.

“I am a black gay man, and I deserve to be in this world,” Sky Robinson, an LGBTQ activist, said to the large group gathered in a circle on Sunday evening, less than 24 hours after the shooting. As the sun set, the White House with its flag at half-mast formed a backdrop. “We are all brothers and sisters, whether we are straight, gay or not,” Robinson continued.

One man held a sign “Love Conquers Hate,” and another read, “The NRA is Killing Us.” Several held rainbow flags. Many stood silently. Vigil organizers invited anyone in the public to the open mic. Some spoke out against the senseless violence, while others implored the vigil to recognize an terrible act by one individual does not reflect the nature of a group of people.

John Becker, an LGBTQ activist from Wisconsin, asked that people refrain from retribution. “Please do not answer this senseless act of hatred with more hatred,” he said. He also condemned the media for perpetuating “ugly versions” of Muslim stereotypes, saying that there are “people who would demonize an entire group of people for this act.”

Another speaker admonished Congress for yielding to the NRA lobby and failing to pass certain gun controls for semi-automatic weapons, even after so many incidents of mass shootings had taken place.

After darkness had fallen, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC joined the vigil, singing “We Shall Overcome” as they arrived. They had walked from the U.S. Capitol to the White House. Many joined in with the chorus and sang the civil rights hymn, while others held each other and cried.

Memorial to Victims Created at DuPont Circle

Another vigil was held Monday night at DuPont Circle, a neighborhood known in the Capital as an LGBTQ -centered community. Thousands gathered, singing songs and sharing stories of how the violence had affected them.

A spontaneous memorial of cards, signs, candles, and photographs of the slain were placed on the ground. Many speakers were overcome with emotion. Others tried to find hope in that it pulled many together in an uncommon bond of peace and understanding.

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Three of the DC Sisters from “The Abbey of Good Intentions” were also there to welcome allies into their community during a difficult time. The DC Sisters is “a group of qweer nuns who devote themselves to community service, ministry and outreach to those on the edges, and promote human rights, respect for diversity and spiritual enlightenment,” according to their website.

Sister Millie Terrie, a long-time resident of DC, said, “It is my hope that one day, we may come together like tonight, united with love, without it being due to tragic occasions.”

Sister Millie said she drew strength and courage through “commUNITY” by shining a light of hope in a dark time and helping others to heal. “It is through the strength of our community that I have the courage to do what I do,” she said.

A Muslim woman brought things to a close with the evening prayer, ending the daily Ramadan Fast. For several minutes she sang “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is great” in Arabic. Dates and water were shared with the vigil.

Several faith communities are organizing another candlelight vigil to remember the victims of and those affected by the Orlando shooting at 8pm on June 15 at DuPont Circle.