Dozens of people gathered in Jerusalem Sunday night to light candles and hold an impromptu vigil for the victims of a massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, one of several memorials held around the world following the worst mass shooting in US history.
Mourners lit memorial candles and held signs decrying the attack at the Pulse nightclub and reading “love always wins” at the city’s central Zion Square.
“We are shocked and saddened by this hateful, severe incident, which proves again the danger our community is under everywhere in the world,” the Jerusalem Open House, which organized the event, wrote in a statement.
“Going out to a club, like participating in a [pride] parade, are not events in which participants need to sense a danger to their lives, and it’s inconceivable that the reality proves time otherwise time and again.”
עכשיו בכיכר ציון: עשרות מפגינים.ות בסולידאריות עם קורבנות הטבח באורלנדו. #כאןכדילהישאר #prayfororlandoצילום: רותם פסו
In Tel Aviv, the municipality building lit up in rainbow colors in solidarity after the massacre, in which 50 people were killed.
Both cities have seen their own attacks on the gay community in recent years. In 2015, a man stabbed several people during a Jerusalem Gay Pride parade, killing a teen girl and wounding five more. In 2009, a gunman killed three people when he opened fire in a gay youth club in Tel Aviv, in what remains an unsolved case.
Israeli leaders have condemned the attack, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu describing the killings as “horrific.”
“On behalf of the people and government of Israel I extend our deepest condolences to the American people following last night’s horrific attack on the LGBT community in Orlando,” he said in a statement issued in English.
“Israel stands shoulder to shoulder with the United States at this moment of tragic loss,” Netanyahu added.
Vigils in NY, Paris
Across the world and in several US cities, vigils were also held for the 50 victims of the attack.
New York’s Empire State Building went dark late Sunday while the spire of One World Trade Center lit up in the colors of the gay pride flag in memory of the victims of the Orlando massacre.
The symbolic move came as the United States mourned the 50 victims of the worst mass shooting in modern US history, gunned down at a gay club in the Florida city.
In the wake of the attack by a heavily armed assailant, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that all flags would be flown at half-mast in the largest US city and that security measures have been strengthened, in particular around places associated with the LGBT community.
De Blasio told reporters that the shooting that also left dozens injured was “against our values.”
He said there were no credible threats directed at New York City.
But “you’ll see a lot of additional police presence on the streets of the city,” he added, stressing: “No city in the world is better prepared to stop terror, to stop hate.”
Hundreds of people gathered Sunday evening in Greenwich Village to reflect on the violence and leave flowers, candles and letters beside a sign reading “Stop Hate.”
The Tony Awards, which honor the best of Broadway, opened in New York dedicated to victims of the shooting, the deadliest terror attack in America since September 11, 2001.
About 100 people gathered in Paris for a spontaneous vigil at Place Igor Stravinsky to remember those slain and wounded at an Orlando nightclub.
Several people were draped in rainbow flags. They lit candles and took pictures as a person in head-to-toe fetish gear held up a sign saying “Proud.” One woman carried a poster showing a ribbon with a rainbow on one side and an American flag on the other.
“To Orlando, we have love,” it read.
Remi Perrenoud, 30, said the news hit him particularly hard because, like the victims, he had been out partying at a gay club Saturday night.
Ian Brossat, the capital’s deputy mayor for housing, was at the vigil too. He says it seems important to mobilize to voice solidarity and to underline the fight against homophobia.
Thousands marched in grief and defiance through the streets of Los Angeles for a Gay Pride parade held hours after the deadly Orlando shooting, as police arrested a man over an unrelated plot to attack the California event.
“We won’t be silenced and we won’t be curtailed no matter what kind of aggression they throw at us,” said Marpa Franzoni, 28, as he marched through the heart of Hollywood.
“I’m in shock. It’s more important than ever to show our visibility and support for our community.”
Acting on reports of a prowler, police in nearby Santa Monica arrested a heavily-armed man who said he wanted to “harm” the Los Angeles parade.
Authorities said they considered calling off the parade in Los Angeles but decided to go ahead with the festivities with a beefed up police presence.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who marched waving a rainbow-colored flag and carrying a sign that read “We love Orlando,” said the violence once again showed the heavy price paid from easily accessible weapons.
“We are here to march, to celebrate, and to mourn,” he told the crowd estimated at 150,000 people.
In Miami Beach, mourners lit candles, embraced and waived rainbow flags Sunday evening.
Members of LGBT groups and their supporters met in the Boystown neighborhood of Chicago. Among them was Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, who said the city has stepped up security in gay communities. Also there in solidarity were mothers who have lost their children to gun violence.
There were at least two vigils planned in Chicago, and Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner ordered all flags lowered to half staff.
Brian Johnson, CEO of the Chicago-based gay rights organization Equality Illinois, said for many people, an attack at a gay bar has historic and social significance.
“If you look back at the lives of the LGBTQ community… we are not a community that had churches to congregate in,” Johnson told AFP in an interview.
“An attack on us in a nightclub is not just an attack in a place where we socialize, it’s an attack in the center of the community where we feel safe.”
One of the Chicago vigils was organized by Dawn Valenti, a crisis responder who usually counsels families of shooting victims in the aftermath of Chicago’s daily gun violence.
Valenti, who is lesbian, said many in the gay community have not been exposed to gun violence and do not know how to deal with it.
“Just hearing about stuff like this has triggered post-traumatic stress disorder in people,” Valenti told AFP, adding that public displays of support for the people of Orlando are one way to cope.
Hundreds of people in Austin, Texas, attended an evening vigil at the Capitol that included Muslim leaders and a Christian pastor, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
Several hundred people filled the parking lot of a popular LGBT-district bistro in downtown Atlanta, singing, lighting candles and speaking out against the violence that struck Orlando. Matt Garrett helped organize the event, handing out candles and lining up a series of speakers who would address the swelling crowd that spilled into the busy street.
Officials in Houston, Texas and New York City planned to light their respective city hall buildings with the familiar rainbow colors which represent gay pride.
“Houston is grieving today,” said Mayor Silvester Turner in a statement. “It is past time for us as a country to come together against hatred toward any person or persons based on group affiliation.”
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett called for flags at local government buildings to be flown at half-mast.
“May our heavy hearts breed compassion, may our sorrowful prayers bring healing, and may our nation’s tears resolve us to action against that ‘mindless menace of violence’ that continues to plague this country,” Hogsett said.