Brighton & Hove- home to one of the largest LGBTQ populations- has expressed powerful solidarity with the victims of Sunday’s Orlando nightclub massacre.
The city is also famous for holding the largest pride celebration and having the largest concentration of same-sex households in Great Britain.
The seaside resort has presented a range of events in reaction to the gun attack in Orlando in which 49 people have been killed and 53 people injured.
This is the deadliest mass shooting in recent US history; gunman Omar Mateen was eventually killed himself by a U.S. SWAT team.
As news broke globally of the tragedy in Florida, many Brightonians took to social media to share their shock and horror at the events. #Orlando quickly became Brighton’s number one trending topic on Twitter.
Just as many gay bars in London’s Soho stopped serving at 7 pm last night. People joined hands in tribute to the victims of the Orlando shooting. In Brighton, a walk and vigil were arranged via social media to pay tribute to those who have died and the many families, friends and communities who are suffering the loss of their loved ones.
Brighton’s Rainbow Choir singing “Something Inside So Strong” at the vigil.
Gay's The Word (@gaystheword) June 13, 2016
RuPauls Drag Race UK (@rpdrukfans) June 13, 2016
The Brighton vigil marked both local and global solidarity against terrorism and specifically against homophobia and attacks on people from the LGBTQ community.
Local people paid their respect by leaving flowers and attending a gathering arranged on social media in the late afternoon of Monday 13th June.
Speakers, leaders of local LGBT organisations, The Mayor of Brighton and many others came to the Aids Memorial statue to share their thoughts of hope, peace, love and solidarity.
Each and every orator expressed compassion and comradeship with the LGBT global community, as well as the families of the shooting’s victims.
The Leader of Brighton and Hove City Council, Councillor Warren Morgan attended the vigil and made the following statement:
‘Brighton & Hove stands in solidarity with the people of Orlando.
Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with those who have been affected by this abhorrent attack.
Our LGBT community is vital to the fabric of this city and we will always stand together with pride against such hatred and violence.
I know there will be vigils across the world today including in Brighton & Hove and I hope we can all take a moment to remember and celebrate the diversity that makes our city special.
Also, I am sure there will be extra vigilance from all the LGBT venues and events in the city in the coming months and we must remember to all work together as a city to continue to challenge and report the language and actions of hate, whoever they are perpetrated against.
We will be flying the LGBT Pride flag at half-mast this week as a mark of solidarity and remembrance.’
Other residents of Brighton who attended the event shared their thoughts and reasons for turning out:
Nationally, there was some initial criticism of media organisations under-playing the relevance of the homophobic nature of this violent attack (highlighted by political journalist, Owen Jones).
However, this angle was certainly not in question amongst the people and the speakers who came out to show their respect and support in Brighton.
Choirs sang; people hugged their neighbours; poems were read; a minute’s noise was held with whistles, trumpets and cheers; and many cried.
Radio and TV presenter Simon Fanshawe, who is one of the co-founders of Stonewall Organisation for gay rights and equality, spoke eloquently and with passion.
He highlighted the need for people of the world not to place blame at any one person or group’s door; rather to try to understand and make place for dialogue and action to overcome differences and to tackle extremism and terrorism all its forms. And to defend the hard-earned equal rights of LGBT people.
Simon drew parallels to terrorism in Northern Ireland in the 1980s and of how religion (Christianity) was not ‘blamed’ and ‘demonised’.
He also referred to the Charleston shooting earlier in the year and how the people there dealt with their grief:
After Orlando my thoughts turned to the people of Charleston who lost family members in an attack by a white supremacist on a black church.
And they embraced even the killer through, in their case, a faith that I do not have.
They held each other, they found dignity in grief.
LGBT people are finding that same dignity.
I was asked too speak at the Orlando vigil last night in Brighton. This is what I said. astar-fanshawe.co.uk/the-speech-i-m…—
Simon Fanshawe (@SimonFanshawe) June 14, 2016
Mr. Fanshawe said while facts and revelations about why and how one man killed 49 people continue to unravel what remains a constant across communities of all kinds over the world, is a determination to stand together, to overcome and to defy the terror of a minority; and ‘that itself is a wonderful thing.’
A minute’s NOISE:
People at the Brighton vigil for Orlando, showing solidarity and support for the LGBTQ Community with a minute’s noise… (Apologies for additional ‘wind’ noises – it was rather blowy by the seaside) Video: Frances Ainley
A further candle-lit vigil has been organised by the Students Unions in Brighton for Tuesday 14th June, at the New Steine Gardens’ Aids Memorial Statue and another is planned for Sunday, 19th June.