In the wake of the deadliest modern mass shooting in U.S. history, one of Tucson's most prominent LGBTQ bars held a candlelight vigil in the downtown area in conjunction with the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundationto honor those who were lost, wounded and their families.
Early Sunday morning, gunman Omar Mateen opened fire in a gay night club in Orlando, Florida as patrons celebrated the club's Latin night theme. The perpetrator carried in an assault-type weapon and a handgun killing 49 and wounding 53 others, according to reports from CNN.
After a three hour long hostage situation, SWAT team officers broke into the club with an armored vehicle, eventually gunning down Mateen. The attacker is known to be a U.S.-born citizen who has been investigated by the FBI in 2013 and 2014 for possible terror links, but no charges were filed. After undergoing questioning from FBI, Mateen was able to legally purchase at least two firearms, according to the Los Angeles Times
Yesterday evening, hundreds of Tucson locals gathered outside of IBT's to remember the victims of the attack that happened earlier that day. As the evening grew darker, the crowd began to swell with vigil-goers flowing onto Fourth Avenue.
The vigil prompted support from members of the LGBTQ community, straight allies as well as Tucson religious communities.
Rev. Matthew Funke Crary, a Unitarian, was just one of the many religious leaders who came to speak out against gun violence.
"I'm here to express my grief and to stand with the families, both in Orlando and all across the United States," Funke Crary said. "[The vigil] reminds me of how Tucson has been through this is a similar way, with Gabrielle Giffords and the shooting — how Tucson comes together."
For others in attendance, the tragedy hit very close to home — Daniel Hernandez, the former governing board president of the Sunnyside Unified School District and current candidate for the Arizona House of Representatives has been through this kind of violence before. Hernandez was an intern for the former Arizona Representative the day of her assassination attempt.
"As a survivor of the shooting that happened in 2011 and as an open LGBT elected official, this really hits close to home," Hernandez said. "For me ... it's a real wake up call — that we cannot keep letting elected officials make bad choices and we really need to have these conversations now, because if now is not the time, then there will never be a right time."
Arizona congressional candidate Victoria Steele also believes that this tragedy should help jettison talk about possible gun reform, however she also thinks that this is a time to recognize the discrimination that members of the LGBTQ community still face.
"People that I love are hurting and it breaks my heart to see what happened and what continues to happen," Steele said. "We may be allowed to have gay marriage, you can still get married today to your same-sex partner and tomorrow, but you can lose you house, get evicted, you can lose your job, just because of who you love. That has to change."
After the crowd made its way to the parking lot adjacent to Creative Ventures on Fourth Avenue, speakers from varying platforms took the stage to express their condolences to the victims' families. Speakers at the vigil also encouraged the crowd to express love towards the Muslim community.
Executive Director of the Tucson Interfaith HIV/AIDS Network, Scott Blades called for an understanding about the Muslim community as he addressed the crowd.
"We must remember, ISIS is not a religion," Blades said.
While most of the ceremony was centered around the remembrance of the victims and those wounded in the attack, the event was not without a handful of anti-police activists. One young woman jumped on stage and demanded to address the crowd as soon as Tucson Chief of Police Chris Magnus was introduced on stage.
The woman on stage was wearing a shirt that read: "Queers hate cops" and was accompanied by shouts from other anti-police protesters that were in the crowd during the vigil.
With the woman still on stage, Magnus began addressing the crowd. Soon, other officers escorted the woman off the stage and pulled other members of the group from the crowd.
Magnus spoke out against all violence, especially that which targets individuals for sexual orientation.
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