POLITICS

Thousands Attend Orlando Vigil To Prove That Love Wins

"We are heartbroken, but our community is strong."

14/06/2016 1:01 PM AEST | Updated June 15, 2016 04:22
Carlo Allegri/Reuters
People attend a memorial service the day after a mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, U.S. June 13, 2016.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Thousands gathered Monday evening in downtown Orlando to pay respects to the victims of Sunday's massacre -- the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history -- and spread the hopeful message that love will prevail in the face of hatred.

Outside the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, a little more than a mile from the gay club where 49 people were killed and 53 were injured by an American-born gunman who had pledged allegiance to ISIS, people from all backgrounds and walks of life -- black, white, Hispanic, gay, straight, transexual, Christian and Muslim -- stood side by side, united against the violence that shocked the world a day earlier. 

Carlos Guillermo Smith, of Equality Florida, told the crowd there's no mistake the shooting was intended to "send a message of hate against the Latino and LGBT people, which in turn is an attack on all humanity." 

"We are heartbroken, but our community is strong," Smith said. "We are resilient. And we know that love trumps hate."

Orlando Sentinel via Getty Images

People waved LGBT pride and American flags. Countless hugs were exchanged. At one point, many joined in chanting, "Peace. Love. Pulse."

Before the vigil, Charles Schaeffer, 27, could be found piecing together a massive ribbon with the gay pride colors and a series of signs he'd painted, which read, "One city/one family/one love/one heart/one pulse."

"I knew a lot of staff, managers, patrons" of Pulse, Schaeffer told The Huffington Post. "Some made it out. Some didn't."

Roque Planas/Huffington Post
Thousands converged at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando to remember those lost in the mass shooting on Sunday. Speakers declared, "We are stronger than fear. Love will conquer hate. Orlando united!"

Among those in attendance were Francesca Garcia and Kimberly Mas, production assistants at the Telemundo show "La Voz." They held a poster board covered with photos of their friend and co-worker Jonathan Camuy, 24, who died inside the club. Both remembered Camuy as a joyful young man who had a way of infecting others with his optimism and loved to dance.

"That's what he was doing there that night," Mas said.

"It's such a loss," Garcia added.

Roque Planas/The Huffington Post
Francesca Garcia sits with a poster adorned with photos of her friend Jonathan Camuy, who died during Sunday's shooting. 

Alex Carella, 34, who was born and raised in Orlando, told HuffPost he's never felt such sadness and so much love all at once. 

"This community is beautiful," Carella said. "Look at all the people who came here to support. Love is real."

In a powerful and moving tribute, each of the victim's names was read aloud. Later, people held flickering candles and stood in absolute silence as the ringing of a bell echoed through the plaza 49 times -- once for each victim. The front of the performance center shined in colors of the rainbow.

Teri Sautner, 22, said she came to Miami to be there with family and friends. 

"I had to come because we can't let hate win," she told HuffPost. 

Andy Campbell/Huffington Post
Thousands converged at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando to remember those lost in the mass shooting on Sunday. Speakers declared, "We are stronger than fear. Love will conquer hate. Orlando united!"

Muhammad Musri, an imam at the Islamic Society of Central Florida, told the crowd it was a tragedy that anyone who professed to believe in "our peaceful faith" would carry out such a horrific act.

"We are deeply hurt. Our lives are broken," Musri said. "We condemn the ideology of hate."

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said that she was proud of those who showed up Monday and that the Orlando community has come too far in its fight for equality to give in to fear and hatred. 

"This is no longer your fight, this is our fight," Jacobs said. "This is America's fight. And in the end, love will defeat. Love will defeat hate."

Speakers at the vigil also called on elected leaders to take action on guns. Smith said it's time to "form a plan of action to keep our community safe from gun violence, which is destroying everything we hold dear."

As the vigil came to a close, attendees joined in singing The Beatles' "Let It Be."

"And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me," they sang. "Shine on until tomorrow, let it be."

  • Carlo Allegri/Reuters
    People attend a memorial service Monday, the day after a mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
  • MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
    Women hold candles during a vigil for the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting, on June 13, 2016 at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando, Florida. 
  • Charles King/Orlando Sentinel/TNS/Getty Images
    A large crowd gathers for a vigil in honor of the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center in Orlando, Fla., on Monday, June 13, 2016. 
  • Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images
    Danielle Irigoyen brings flowers to the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting. "I'm very close to many of the people who go to Pulse. Pulse was a safe place for us all," she said.
  • MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
    People hold candles during a vigil for the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting, on June 13, 2016 at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando, Florida. 
  • Andy Campbell/Huffington Post
    Thousands converged at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando to remember those lost in the mass shooting on Sunday. Speakers declared, "We are stronger than fear. Love will conquer hate. Orlando united!"
  • Carlo Allegri/Reuters
    People attend a memorial service the day after a mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
  • Jim Young/Reuters
    Mourners grieve at a vigil for the victims of the shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
  • Andy Campbell/Huffington Post
    Thousands converged at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando to remember those lost in the mass shooting on Sunday. Speakers declared, "We are stronger than fear. Love will conquer hate. Orlando united!"
  • Jim Young/Reuters
    Orlando Police Chief John Mina lays a flower at a vigil for the victims of the shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
  • Carlo Allegri/Reuters
    People attend a memorial service the day after a mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
  • Andy Campbell/Huffington Post
    The Sound of Freedom Color Guard and Band.
  • Andy Campbell/Huffington Post
    Thousands converged at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando to remember those lost in the mass shooting on Sunday. Speakers declared, "We are stronger than fear. Love will conquer hate. Orlando united!"
  • Andy Campbell/Huffington Post
    Thousands converged at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando to remember those lost in the mass shooting on Sunday. Speakers declared, "We are stronger than fear. Love will conquer hate. Orlando united!"
  • Carlo Allegri/Reuters
    A friend of Amanda Alvear holds up her photo at a memorial service the day after a mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, U.S. June 13, 2016. 
  • David Goldman/AP
    Jose Hernandez, center, joins hands with Victor Baez, right, as they mourn the loss of their friends Amanda Alvear and Mercedez Flores who were killed in the mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub, as they visit a makeshift memorial, Monday, June 13, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. 
  • Roque Planas/Huffington Post
    A Muslim man, who would only give his first name as Abdul, told The Huffington Post "we're just here to show our support."
  • Andy Campbell/Huffington Post
    Thousands converged at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando to remember those lost in the mass shooting on Sunday. Speakers declared, "We are stronger than fear. Love will conquer hate. Orlando united!"
  • Andy Campbell/Huffington Post
    The Sound of Freedom Color Guard and Band.
  • Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images
    Friends and relatives bring flowers and remembrances to the Plaza at the Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center in downtown Orlando on Monday, June 13, 2016. 
  • Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images
    Volunteers gather in prayer on Monday at the Senior Center at 800 Delaney St. in Orlando.
  • Joe Raedle/Getty Images
    Shawn McCluskey (L) comforts Freedanchy Ruiz as she is overcome with emotion thinking about her cousin that was killed as they stand together during a memorial service at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts for the victims of the Pulse gay nightclub shooting where Omar Mateen allegedly killed 49 people on June 13, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. 
  • Drew Angerer/Getty Images
    A man plants a Pride flag at a makeshift memorial prior to an evening vigil for the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shootings, at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, June 13, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. 
  • BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI via Getty Images
    People visit a memorial before a vigil outside the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts for the mass shooting victims at the Pulse nightclub June 13, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. The American gunman who launched a murderous assault on a gay nightclub in Orlando was radicalized by Islamist propaganda, officials said Monday, as they grappled with the worst terror attack on US soil since 9/11. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
  • MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
    People hold hands during a vigil for the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting on June 13, 2016 at Lake Eola in Orlando, Florida. 

Other vigils (see below) were held Monday across the globe, from Boston to Los AngelesLondon to Sydney, as the world stood in solidarity with Orlando. 

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Vigils Held In Honor Of Victims Of Orlando Nightclub Shooting
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