Over 3,000 people gathered in Ybor City Monday night for a candlelight vigil to commemorate those killed at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. The vigil (find video of the crowd at the bottom of this post) was organized by GaYBOR District Coalition, Tampa Pride and the Ybor City community, and was also aimed at rallying LGBT community members and allies in the face of still-pervasive hate.
For many, Sunday's mass shooting hit home, especially since Orlando's and Tampa's LGBT communities are interwoven.
“I was actually planning on going to Pulse this weekend,” said Lydia Straiton, a Gibsonton resident who identifies as gay. “It is really close to home… It could happen anywhere.”
The crowd listened as local government officials and LGBT community leaders shared similar sentiments in the parking lot across from the Southern Nights TAMPA, a gay nightclub.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn speaks at candlelight vigil in Ybor to honor the victims and survivors of the attack at Orlando's Pulse nightclub. At his side are Tampa Police Chief Eric Ward, Tampa Fire and Rescue Chief Thomas Forward and GaYBOR cofounder Carrie West.
“Friday nights, Orlando comes to Tampa. On Saturdays, Tampa goes to Orlando,” said Carrie West, one of the founders of the GaYBOR Coalition. “With that, we find many, many brothers and sisters that have been killed.”
Tampa native Christopher Sanfeliz, 24, was one of 49 people killed in the shooting early Sunday. Sanfeliz worked as a personal banker in Tampa, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The list of the other victims who lost their lives can be found on the City of Orlando website.
Emotions were strong during candlelight vigil as people remember the lives of those who were killed.
Fifty-three people were also hospitalized after a heavily armed man opened fire inside the crowded gay nightclub in Orlando.
Federal law enforcement officials identified the shooter as Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, 29, who pledged allegiance to ISIS as he carried out our nation’s worst mass shooting in recent history. Mateen, who according to recent reports may have been struggling with his own sexuality, was fatally shot by law enforcement during an exchange of gunfire with police.
Mateen is an American citizen of Afghan descent who was born in New York and lived in Fort Pierce.
Tampa Fire & Rescue Chief Thomas Forward lights one of the many candles in honor of those who were killed during the shooting in Orlando.
“Being the worst terrorist attack since 9/11 here on our soil, it's important that we stand together as a country and as a community,” Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner said. “It doesn't make a difference if you belong to the LGBT community. We all believe red, white and blue.”
Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner lights people's candle with his own during vigil in Ybor.
During the vigil, Beckner announced that he is going to bring forth a measure to the Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday, the 11th anniversary of the Board's vote (since repealed) that banned county support of Gay Pride events, famously summed up by staunch conservative then-Commissioner Ronda Storms' as "little 'g,' little 'p.”
The measure will propose that the county raise an LGBT pride flag in solidarity with those who died and were injured in Orlando. It will also declare June as LGBT Pride Month, which would establish a day of remembrance and an annual candlelight vigil on June 12 in honor of the victims of the Orlando shooting.
“It's not just an act of terrorism that can inflict violence in a community. It's having hateful policies and other types of discriminatory policies in our government,” Beckner said. “We're going to work together as a community to stop these senseless acts of violence.”
Other attendees called on the community and its allies to stay strong and not retreat when faced with threats or tragedy.
“The actions — as horrible and life-changing as they are — are not going to change our community,” said Mike Hydorn, chair of volunteer committee for Balance Tampa Bay and Tampa Pride. “Love is love. We stand together. We stand with Orlando.”
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