Crowds pack Diversity Richmond Tuesday night to remember the victims of Orlando shooting
Richmond police officers, leaders of non-profit organizations, members of the LGBTQ community, local residents and activists, city council members, church leaders, and even the governor came together Tuesday night at Diversity Richmond to remember the 49 people who lost their lives and the many others wounded during the horrific Orlando nightclub shooting early Sunday morning.
Diversity Richmond was packed wall to wall with people. Hundreds attended the vigil and even more crowded around speakers stationed outside the community center to pay their respects, and gain some peace.understanding and camaraderie from others as various Richmond community members spoke on the tragedy.
Bill Harrison, President and Executive Director for Diversity Richmond, delivered opening remarks. Behind him hung the Puerto Rican flag, the LGBTQ Pride flag and the transgender pride flag. He recalled seeing the events unfold on his television Sunday morning.
“Unfortunately, Americans, we have somehow grown numb to mass murders.” he said to the crowd. “Because they are not that uncommon in this great land that we live in.”
Harrison said that Americans often don’t talk about and forget the horrible mass shootings that the nation faces. He noted that the LGBTQ community faces hate and discrimination too often. During the AIDS crisis, he recalled how much discrimination and fear affected the LGBTQ community, but he also remembered how the community was able to get together and educate themselves, march on Washington, and most importantly take care of each other.
Harrison also recognized those heroes who gave their lives to protect others during the shooting in Orlando.
“I stood in front of my television the other night and I watched the reports of the people in that nightclub who put their lives in the face of danger,” said Harrison. “Standing up while the bullets were flying. None of us can even begin to imagine. Holding doors open so total strangers can get out to safety. Placing their lives at risk. Taking off their clothing and using it as tourniquets to stop the bleeding. I stood there and I thought, I am so proud to be a gay man.”
Following Harrison, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe came on stage to say a few words about gun violence.
“There is no reason this individual should have been able to go out and buy a weapon of mass destruction,” said McAuliffe. “We gotta get rid of these types of weapons from our streets.”
During his time as governor, he said he has been to too many funerals. He noted the recent funerals of two Virginia law enforcement officials who had been shot and killed while on duty. Chad Dermyer, who was killed at the Greyhound bus station on a training mission in March, and Ashley Guindon, who was shot and killed a month prior on her first call as a Prince William Police Officer.
He asked everyone to call the Orlando shootings for what it was, a hate crime. Although they took a few moments of silence for the victims, McAuliffe asked the crowd not to remain silent against discriminatory acts and gun violence once they left the vigil.
“It is time to stand up and say enough is enough. We are tired of discriminatory acts and we are tired of too many people possessing firearms who should not have them in this country. It is time to say enough.” said McAuliffe.
Towards the end of the vigil, members of Diversity Richmond honored the victims. As the names and ages of all 49 victims were read a prayer candle was lit in memory. Followed by the lighting of candles of those in the audience. Another moment of silence took place among the ocean of flames.
Zakia McKensey, of Virginia Anti-Violence Project and the Nationz Foundation, gave the closing remarks.
“We are praying for those who have been injured or lost due to this horrible crime targeting the LGBTQ community,” she said. “We are praying for the families affected by this incident and we are praying for the city of Orlando. I will remember, you will remember, we will remember. This day that has made our hearts heavy.”
Dr. Imad Damaj, President and Founder of Virginia Muslim Coalition for Public Affairs, James Milner, President of Virginia Pride, and Rev. Lacette Cross of New Beginnings Church also spoke at the vigil.
As I sit in my office and type, I am listening to the beautiful music of the choir of a community of faith that meets in our building on Sundays. I am reminded once again of the strength and gentleness of our community. We can overcome anything. We have often proven that. We need to [...]September 27, 2016
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