Hundreds of people gathered in Cal Anderson Park on Sunday night to pay tribute to the people killed at a gay nightclub in Orlando.
Hundreds of people gathered at Seattle’s Cal Anderson Park on Sunday night for an emotional candlelight vigil to pay tribute to the 50 people who died in a massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando over the weekend.
Mayor Ed Murray, the city’s first openly gay mayor, addressed the crowd along with Gov. Jay Inslee and other state leaders and activists, many of whom wore rainbow scarves and stickers that read, “I am Orlando.” As the vigil began, the Seattle Men’s Chorus and Seattle Women’s Chorus sang the gospel spiritual “We Shall Overcome,” and the crowd joined in.
“The slaughter of our brothers and sisters was meant to spread fear among the lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender community across this nation,” Murray told the crowd. “When we engage in the politics of personal denigration, when we stereotype communities … it leads to a church in Charleston, and a gay bar in Orlando. We must be better than that.”
Speaker Sonja Basha told the crowd, “The Muslim community and LGBT community are not separate; we mourn together. I am Muslim, I am queer and I exist.” She asked everyone to chant with her: “I exist.”
After the vigil ended, the crowd unfurled a giant rainbow flag and, grabbing the sides, waved it up and down while taking turns running underneath it. Later, a group of about 25 gathered for a Muslim prayer on the baseball field.
Several people wore “Make America Gay Again” hats.
People had begun gathering more than an hour before the vigil at the park — named for Washington’s first openly gay legislator, who died in 1995 of AIDS — to hand-letter posters expressing their solidarity with the victims.
Danni Askini, executive director of the advocacy group Gender Justice League, said in an interview that the Orlando shooting was not an isolated incident.
“I think that it really speaks to how people of color and LGBT people, immigrants, lots of people, including the Muslim community as well … are really at the intersection of violence,” she said. “We can’t erase the fact that this was specifically an anti-LGBT hate crime.”
Askini said the amount of anti-LGBT and anti-transgender legislation at the state and federal levels has contributed to the climate that led up to the shooting, despite the focus on terrorism after the shooting.
“It’s not happening in a vacuum, and I think people don’t always make that connection,” she said. “It’s part of a collective challenge that we’re all facing.”
Murray said Seattle’s police chief will provide more details about security plans for upcoming Seattle Pride events, which include a June 26 parade in downtown Seattle that typically draws tens of thousands of people.
Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole said additional security would be provided to all pride events.
Seattle Pride Vice President David Hale said organizers plan to move forward with the parade and other events, but he said the attack will change the tone.
“Pride will be doing anything we can to recognize the lives lost in this tragedy,” he said. “The best thing we can do for our community is to come together.”
Colorful Pride flags were lowered to half-staff at City Hall and the Space Needle.
The candlelight vigil was organized Sunday morning by the Pride Foundation as the city woke to news of the slayings in Florida.
Bloodworks Northwest has shipped blood to Florida in response to the emergency appeal for help to the victims of the Orlando attack. The organization is now asking Northwest residents to make an appointment to donate blood in the next few weeks to replenish its local blood supplies: https://schedule.bloodworksnw.org/
Within hours, the management and staff of Neighbours, a Seattle gay nightclub targeted two and a half years ago in an attack with haunting similarities to the mass killings at Pulse Orlando, expressed condolences over the tragedy.
Neighbours posted a message on its Facebook page, along with a meme of five colored hearts, with a broken red heart, and the simple plea, “More Love. Less Hate.”
On the last day of 2013, a man later identified as Musab Mohammed Masmari attempted to set off a crude firebomb in the entrance of the popular Capitol Hill nightclub, which was packed with more than 750 people celebrating the new year. Only the quick actions of employees who smelled smoke averted disaster, according to police and federal prosecutors.
Masmari was a Muslim who had expressed disgust toward gays, according to court records.
Omar Mateen — the man suspected of killing 50 patrons and wounding 53 others in the nation’s worst mass shooting early Sunday — pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in a 911 call before the shootings, according to police. According to news reports, Mateen had expressed “disgust” after seeing two men kissing.
A month after the attempted firebombing in Seattle, Masmari was arrested as he apparently tried to flee to Libya, police said. He pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Seattle to a single count of arson.
Masmari, who said he was drunk when the incident occurred and could remember nothing, was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison — twice the amount of time agreed to by prosecutors and defense attorneys.
There was evidence the arson was a hate crime, including statements by confidential informants and other sources, but they were not admissible as evidence and prevented Masmari from being charged under that statute.