Love is love is love is love.
These words resounded from City Hall and bounced across John F. Kennedy Boulevard as thousands came together in solidarity with Orlando.
Philadelphia held a candlelight vigil Monday evening to mourn the loss of the 49 people killed and 53 injured in the country’s deadliest mass shooting in Pulse nightclub in the early hours of Sunday morning. Pulse is a gay bar in Orlando and the attacks occurred on the bar’s Latin night, with many of the victims of Latino descent.
“I want the Orlando victims and every member of the LGBTQ community to know that the city of Philadelphia grieves with you, not only for the loss of life but also for the violence that is all too common for LGBTQ individuals,” Mayor Jim Kenney said during the vigil.
“The LGBTQ civil rights movement has always been about love, so now in this time of tragedy, we cannot act in hate or malice toward other marginalized groups,” he said.
“We must come together, and I know that we will,” Kenney added.
All of the names of victims that have been released, including recent West Catholic preparatory school graduate Akyra Murray, were read aloud to the crowd.
City Council President and Fifth District council member Darrell Clarke spoke about his anger caused by the attacks and called for action at federal and state levels during the vigil.
“People say ‘don’t let the terrorists win, don’t respond’ and I agree,” Clarke said. “But doggone, I’m angry. This is utterly ridiculous– [the attacks are] about hate.”
“The legislatures in Washington and in Harrisburg who feel like there’s no need to deal with these guns, you do not need a gun with 30 bullets in a clip to shoot a deer,” Clarke added. “I’m not trying to bring politics into it but doggone this is about politics because people refuse to act to save the lives of our citizens.”
At the close of the vigil, the Philadelphia Gay Men’s choir kicked off a song of “True Colors,” with many in the crowd joining in. Later, many attendees marched around City Hall with their signs and candles lit in support of Orlando.
“This just happened yesterday and it was really shocking to hear because my parents are from Puerto Rico, a lot of people who were killed were Latino/Latina and as a queer Latina myself, it’s just really disturbing that even in safe places and places of celebration I can never truly be safe,” sophomore undeclared arts major and vigil attendee Laura Rivera-Calderon said.
“The best that we can do is come together as a community and support the victims,” she said. “[We need to] just keep having our voices heard so we can ensure that something like this never happens again.”
“And if it ever does happen again, we will retaliate, and retaliate with even stronger messages of love,” Rivera-Calderon added.
Senior sociology major and Queer Student Union member Anthony Sanchez said he attended the vigil to show his support for the LGBTQ Latino community in which he is a part of.
“We have a large community [in Philadelphia] and we’re not afraid to show out when we are needed,” Sanchez said.
“In times of fear like this, it’s most important to step up and make sure that you’re still visible,” Sanchez added. “Because you can’t hide in fear. Then they win.”
Gillian McGoldrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @gill_mcgoldrick.