Weekly Feature



2016-06-16 / Front Page

Thousands gather to honor victims of Orlando shootings

by NICK KONOTOPSKYJ
Reporter


Several hundred people gathered Monday evening at Niagara Square in Buffalo for a vigil to pay tribute to the victims of Sunday’s mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Political leaders called for enhanced gun control in the U.S. 
Photo by Sarah McIlhattenPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Several hundred people gathered Monday evening at Niagara Square in Buffalo for a vigil to pay tribute to the victims of Sunday’s mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Political leaders called for enhanced gun control in the U.S. Photo by Sarah McIlhattenPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com The Western New York community came together Monday evening in Niagara Square to honor those who lost their lives in Orlando, Florida.

Forty-nine people were killed early Sunday morning at Pulse nightclub in what is now the largest single mass shooting in American history.

Monday’s vigil saw many speakers ranging from politicians to priests to anti-violence activists. The message to the hundreds that were in attendance was a simple one: Stand together.

Erie County District Attorney Michael Flaherty Jr., spoke about how even though equality is improving in this country, acts against the gay community happen regularly.

“What most Americans don’t appreciate, but what everyone here knows all too well, is that the LGBTQ community suffer attacks every day,” he said.


The Peace Bridge connecting Buffalo and Canada is illuminated with a rainbow in honor of the 49 individuals who were killed in a mass shooting at Pulse nightclub on Sunday in Orlando, Florida. On the bridge, both the American and Canadian flags fly at half-staff. 
Photo by Jennifer Waters The Peace Bridge connecting Buffalo and Canada is illuminated with a rainbow in honor of the 49 individuals who were killed in a mass shooting at Pulse nightclub on Sunday in Orlando, Florida. On the bridge, both the American and Canadian flags fly at half-staff. Photo by Jennifer Waters This tragedy hurts everyone who was in attendance Monday evening, but for guest speaker Justo Gonzalez that was his community that was affected.

The priest from the Pilgrim St. Luke’s United Church of Christ shared his thoughts on his former community.

“I’m a gay Latino. I’m a man of faith. And I also relocated to Buffalo from Orlando, Florida,” he said. “The Pulse community is well-known to me.”

Many of the politicians who spoke talked about gun violence and the impact that mass shootings have had in not just Orlando, but at Virginia Tech and San Bernardino, California, and elsewhere in the nation.

Gun violence is a major issue in this country, but it was pointed out during the vigil that Buffalo is doing very well with gun violence protection.

Paul McQuillen of Upstate New York Against Gun Violence revealed those statistics to the crowd.

“I’m so proud to live in New York State where the governor, Andrew Cuomo, and the lieutenant governor, Kathy Hochul, preside over one of the safest gun-violence states in the nation,” he said. “Thanks to their leadership, New York State ranks No. 4 in gun violence prevention.”

The reality is that attacks like the one in Orlando can happen anywhere, but it was made very clear to the crowd that Buffalo is doing everything in its power to keep the community safe.

Bryan Ball of the Stonewall Democrats of Western New York stressed that this is not just an attack on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community, but on everyone.

“When the forces of hate attack one of our safe places, you are not only attacking the LGBTQ community, but you are attacking all of us who are able to stand up against hate.”

The vigil ended at 8 p.m. with a special prayer given by Carol Speser and Nathan Phillips while music was performed by the Buffalo Gay Men’s Chorus.

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