[image-1]A vigil is planned Monday evening in honor of the victims and families affected by this weekend’s shooting at a popular gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. that left 50 dead, including the shooter, and 53 injured. Hosted by Charleston Pride, the vigil will take place at the Charleston Visitor Center Bus Shed at 375 Meeting St. in downtown Charleston at 7 p.m.
According to the Orlando Police Department, an officer working at Pulse Nightclub responded to shots fired just after 2 a.m. June 12. The officer engaged in a shootout with the suspect — later identified as American citizen 29-year-old Omar Mir Seddique Mateen of Fort Pierce, Fla. — who retreated deeper into the club and took hostages. Orlando Police Chief John Mina said that the decision to breach the club was made at 5 a.m. Thirty hostages were rescued at this time as SWAT officers exchanged gunfire with the suspect, killing him. Investigators report that the suspect was armed with a .223 caliber AR-type rifle and a 9mm semiautomatic pistol. Assistant Special Agent Trevor Velinor of the ATF Tampa Field Office said that the weapons were legally purchased within the last week.
On Sunday, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer called the incident one of the most difficult days the city had ever experienced. The attack now ranks as the deadliest mass shooting in the country’s history.
Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg released a statement Sunday evening, saying, “Early this morning, in an act of unimaginable savagery, the lives of at least 50 innocent men and women were cruelly snuffed out in a mass shooting at an Orlando, Fla. nightclub. Regardless of the gunman’s precise motive, which is still not known with certainty at this hour, this was clearly yet another unfathomable act of evil, of hate, perpetrated against good and decent people who loved their lives and did nothing wrong. Their loss, and the loss of their friends and loved ones must now somehow endure, is simply incomprehensible — and heartbreaking.”
Tecklenburg said he has spoken with Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen and that all appropriate actions are being taken here locally to secure citizens against a similar tragedy. He has also reached out to Mayor Dyer to offer any assistance needed in the wake of the tragedy.
“One year ago this week, we here in Charleston were brought face to face with the same kind of evil that the people of Orlando are being forced to reckon with today, when nine beautiful souls were viciously stolen from us by a racist gunman in the basement of Mother Emanuel AME church,” Tecklenburg said.
He added, “The thoughts and prayers of all Charlestonians are with the people of Orlando today, as we grieve for the lost and for those they left behind. And as we remain determined to live out the full meaning of St. Paul’s admonition that we ‘be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.’”
Chase Glenn of Charleston Pride said that an attack on any safe space is especially heartbreaking, but there is hope that the tragedy in Orlando will lead to positive discourse and actions in support of the LGBT community. Glenn added that, like every year, organizers of Charleston’s upcoming Pride Festival will continue working with local law enforcement and city officials to ensure the safety of all those involved, but no major festival changes are expected due to security issues.
Equality Florida, the state’s LGBT civil rights organization, has created a GoFundMe page to collect donations for the families of the victims. Contributions can be made at gofundme.com/PulseVictimsFund. Donations can also be made to a fund organized by the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida and other organizations throughout Central Florida at gofundme.com/29bubytq.