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Vigil in Cal Anderson after worst mass shooting in U.S. history at Orlando gay club

(Image: Mariah Joyce for CHS)

(Image: Mariah Joyce for CHS)

UPDATE: Thousands filled Cal Anderson Park Sunday night to remember those killed in Orlando in the deadly shooting at a gay nightclub. A tear-filled count to 50 — and above — to remember the slain ended the evening. “47… 48… 49…”

Earlier in the night, Ed Murray, Seattle’s first openly gay mayor, addressed the crowd and struck a defiant tone. “We will, as we have in the past, face this fear,” Murray said. “We will not be intimidated.”

“I can say unequivocally this: There are seven million Washington hearts in Orlando tonight,” Governor Jay Inslee said.

“Hatred is a common virus, it affects us all.”

(Image: Mariah Joyce for CHS)

(Image: Mariah Joyce for CHS)

Hundreds of candles were joined by hundreds and hundreds more flashing phone lights as the dead were remembered.

In the crowd, people told CHS they heard about the vigil through social media and from community centers like Broadway’s All Pilgrims Church. One woman told CHS she just knew there would be a gathering on Capitol Hill. “This is what pride looks like,” Barbara Elza said with a rainbow flag fastened like a cape around her neck. “This is how strong we are.”

Thanks to Dave Reimer for the picture

Thanks to Dave Reimer for the picture

The Seattle Men’s Chorus and Seattle Women’s Chorus lead the crowd in song at one point joining a bagpiper across the park for Amazing Grace. A somber medley featuring What a Wonderful World helped bring the vigil to an end. A giant Pride flag was unfurled across the crowd as the vigil drew to a close.

Afterwards, candles and signs from the vigil decorated a stone wall on the park’s southern edge in memorial.

We’ll have more coverage from the vigil and images from around Cal Anderson. Please send us your pictures or video from the vigil for us to share.

UPDATE: The City of Seattle is streaming the vigil

Community groups are organizing a candlelight vigil in Cal Anderson Park Sunday night after a terrible shooting at an Orlando, Florida nightclub killed at least 50 people:

A gunman carrying a handgun and an assault-style weapon opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., early Sunday, killing at least 50 people and wounding at least 53 others. It is the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. The death toll far exceeds initial estimates. Orlando Police Chief John Mina initially said “around 20” people succumbed to gunshot wounds inside the Pulse Orlando nightclub, but later said police found far more victims once they gained full access to the scene. He said the suspected gunman is also dead.

The vigil is slated to begin at 8 PM. The Pride Foundation announced the vigil Sunday morning as Seattle awoke to news of the horrific events in Florida. UPDATE: Representatives from the Sisters of the Mother House of Washington say they will be on hand at the park starting at 6 PM “for those who feel the need to arrive early and be around community.”

Governor Jay Inslee and Mayor Ed Murray are slated to attend. They will be joined by officials including State Senator Jamie Pedersen, community leader Sarah Davis, Luis Fernando Ramirez of Entre Hermanos, Monisha Harrell of Equal Rights Washington Michael Ramos of Church Council of Greater Seattle, and Connie Burk of The NW Network, according to a City of Seattle announcement.

At 2015's anti-violence march on Capitol Hill

At 2015’s anti-violence march on Capitol Hill

The massacre comes as cities across the country are celebrating Pride. Sunday, the Los Angeles Pride parade was preparing for a somber edition of the annual celebration. Seattle’s major downtown Pride parade happens June 26th. In the meantime, Pride events are scheduled across Capitol Hill and the city through June. Cal Anderson will be part of many of these. The park is named in honor of Washington’s first gay legislator.

The attack on a crowded gay club surely brings to mind for many the 2014 New Year’s arson at Broadway’s Neighbours that was stopped from being a deadly tragedy by bravery by patrons and employees inside the club. Musab Masmari admitted to setting the New Year’s Eve fire inside the crowded club, blaming his actions on drinking too much alcohol before setting the fire. Under a plea deal, the defendant did not face terrorism or a hate crime charges — though, according to the prosecution, a “confidential informant” told investigators that Masmari said homosexuals should be “exterminated.”

Pride in Seattle, along with parties, festivals, and beer gardens, is also a celebration of social justice and civil rights. This week in 2015, a march against anti-queer violence crossed Capitol Hill. Now in 2016, a mournful vigil in Cal Anderson Park will be part of marking Pride in Seattle.

UPDATE: Here is Mayor Ed Murray’s statement on the tragedy and Seattle’s response:

“Americans woke up this morning with the all-too-familiar feeling of incomprehension at another act of mass violence, and LGBTQ Americans awoke with the sickening, all-too-familiar feeling of fear that our community has once again been attacked.

“Words cannot adequately encompass the feelings of grief I am feeling for the loss of so many of our LGBTQ and allied brothers and sisters in Orlando during the largest single act of violence against LGBTQ people in United States history. For too long, our community has been the target of violence throughout the world. It will never make sense to me that love is met with such hate.

“On behalf of the people of the City of Seattle, my heart and my thoughts go out to those whose lives were forever changed by the events last night. Today our community draws closer to one another for comfort, support and healing, and to honor those who were tragically lost.”

The mayor’s office say Murray will speak at the Cal Anderson vigil. The announcement said that all SPD officers have received “substantial active shooter training, and the Seattle Police Department has increased security for Pride events and other large gatherings.”

SPD Chief Kathleen O’Toole also issued a statement on the shootings:

The Seattle Police Department offers its sincere condolences to all affected by today’s tragic mass shooting in Orlando. I have been in communication with senior officials from the FBI and DHS, as well as our state and local law enforcement partners. While there is no information indicating any specific threat to Seattle, residents can expect to see increased police in the community. As always, we ask that all in our community remain vigilant and contact police if you see something suspicious.

In her statement on the killings, District 3 representative Kshama Sawant said the murders “did not happen in a political and social vacuum” writing “this kind of bigotry and violence will continue unless we fight it through unified mass movements.”

The flags at City Hall have been lowered to half-staff.

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4 thoughts on “Vigil in Cal Anderson after worst mass shooting in U.S. history at Orlando gay club” -- All CHS Comments are held for moderation before publishing

  1. I wish I could be there, but I’m in Albuquerque until tomorrow night, stuck with a Trump-supporting aunt who rolls her eyes at any of the messages of condolences that are coming out of any other politician in the world, and doesn’t understand why I’m so upset.

    I wish the media would comment on what he actually said instead of just speculating on his motives, because as always they’re speculating that it’s something related to Islam, even though everyone associated with him is saying he wasn’t religious and was filled with hate for two men kissing.

    I wish the media would focus on the victims instead of posting an endless stream of his fucking selfies.

    I wish the media would even acknowledge that this was an LGBT-focused nightclub and that most of the victims were LGBT people of color.

    I wish politicians weren’t using this as a means of grandstanding and using it as a reason why EVERYONE should be armed (because of course shooting in self-defense after a spray of automatic assault rifle fire goes out will solve the problem) or using it to fuel their anti-ISIS rhetoric. “This wasn’t a gay nightclub, this was an American nightclub” is coded speech for “this isn’t homophobia, this is foreign terrorism.”

    I wish this horrible incident hadn’t happened, and I wish I could believe that another one won’t happen again.