Emotional Vigils Held Around This World In Solidarity With LGBT Victims Of Orlando Massacre

LGBT people and their allies stood strong in the face of hate...

Emotional Vigils Held Around This World In Solidarity With LGBT Victims Of Orlando Massacre

by Sophie Wilkinson |
Published on

In times of turmoil and tragedy and people co-opting both for political and racist gains, it’s easy to feel hopeless. But as vigils across the world yesterday showed, there is solidarity and support for LGBT people in the wake of the Orlando massacre.

Old Compton Street in Soho, which has long formed the hub of London’s gay scene, and endures in history as a place of diversity and tolerance, played host to London’s vigil. Thousands of people filled the streets, and stood in silence in memory of the 49 people killed by Omar Mateen in Pulse nightclub in the early hours of Saturday morning.

With politicians Jeremy Corbyn, Tom Watson, Nicky Morgan, Sadiq Khan and the SNP’s Mhairi Black in attendance (as well as Sophie Ellis Bextor, Andrew Garfield, actual Spiderman, and Domnhall Gleeson out of* Star Wars*!), the London Gay Men’s Chorus sang Bridge Over Troubled Water. The sheer mass of people meant that not every word was heard, but cheers and applause unfolded down the street like a Mexican wave.

The epicentre of the vigil was The Admiral Duncan pub, which in 1999 was targeted by a white supremacist with a nail bomb. Three people died - two gay men and a pregnant straight woman.

Anyone wishing to link homophobia exclusively to Islam would do well to note that David Copeland also bombed Brick Lane and Brixton, aiming to reach South Asian and Black communities because he was a Neo-Nazi who told police at the time of his arrest: ‘My main intent was to spread fear, resentment and hatred throughout this country; it was to cause a racial war.’

Speaking at the vigil, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told reporters: ‘It’s an extraordinary turnout of people showing their solidarity against this awful crime and there is an amazing sense of coming together and unity here in London tonight, indeed as it is all over the world.’

Nicky Morgan, education secretary and equalities minister (note she voted against gay marriage), said: ‘I think this sort of tragic, horrific event in Orlando transcends normal party politics and we all wanted to be here to offer our solidarity with the people of Orlando who have suffered the most awful hate crime, fuelled by prejudice. I think it is very important - and quite moving - that the streets of London were filled with so many people who wanted to pay their tribute.’

Mhairi Black also complained about the ‘subtle homophobia in that people aren’t really taking it seriously.' She added: 'To see this kind of reaction in response to [attempts to] sort of sideline the fact that it was a total homophobic attack is fantastic.’


And LGBT people and their allies vogued, they lit candles, they let off 49 balloons for each person who lost their lives in Orlando and stayed up past sunset to pay their respects. Signs held aloft read ‘ORLANDO’ and ‘PEOPLE OF ALL FAITH AGAINST LGBTI HATE CRIMES’. On the other side of the world, Lady Gaga gave a tearful speech at LA Pride in support of those lost and those oppressed elsewhere. Another vigil has been organised by Latinx (this means Latino and Latina) and Black LGBT people to commemorate the fact that so many who died were people of colour.

There’s been a reluctance to admit this was a homophobic massacre from some people, with the added insistence that Mateen — who allegedly had a Grindr account and had regularly turned up to Pulse — could have attacked anyone. While it’s great for straight allies - and there were many in attendance at the vigils - to show their support and empathy for their queer peers, there is very little point in trying to separate the victims’ sexualities from the tragedy. What does it gain, apart from rejecting the validity of LGBT people who might now live in further fear of what could happen them when they spend time with their community? How does it help those who suffer homophobia at the hands of people regardless of their ties with radical Islamism?

Support in the face of hatred and unity against those who seek to divide us is so important, and thankfully, that’s what we got last night.

Like this? You might also be interested in:

7 Frustrating Myths About The Gay Club Massacre In Orlando

The Very Best LGBT Books You Need To Read Right Now

Sam Smith Sells Records In Homophobic Countries But Can He Change Them?

Follow Sophie on Twitter @sophwilkinson

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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