Photos by Keeley Smith.
Hundreds of people flocked to Long Beach to grieve for the victims lost in America’s deadliest mass shooting yesterday evening, lighting candles and holding each other while appearing still somewhat shocked.
Police estimated at least 300 people in attendance at the event last night, for which they shut down a portion of 3rd Street for the large smattering of pedestrians, honoring the 50 killed and 53 injured at a gay nightclub in Orlando in the early hours of Sunday.
The vigil in Long Beach was one of only two in Los Angeles County, with the other taking place in West Hollywood hours after the LA Pride parade wound down.
A small and distinguished group of local leaders each took their place above the “milk box” in the park, which was adorned with bouquets of flowers: Long Beach’s first openly gay mayor Robert Garcia, the LGBTQ Center of Long Beach’s Porter Gilberg and United Church of Christ’s Libby Tigner.
“First—our community was attacked,” said Garcia. “It was also very clearly a hate crime.”
He went on to talk about how gay clubs are more than just bars for the LGBT community.
“They are sanctuaries—places where people want to be safe,” he said, explaining his appreciation for the clubs in his twenties.
Gilberg and Tigner discussed the nature of the attacks, and urged the LGBT community to stand strong.
“This is the last time we tolerate hate speech and homophobia masking as religion,” said Rev. Libby Tigner of the Los Altos United Church of Christ. “[…] Every person is blessed by the spark of the divine.”
“We shouldn’t have to live in fear of our spaces,” said Gilberg. “I refuse to move forward in fear tonight. This brutal attack can’t be removed from the larger conversation.”
He went on to talk about hate breeding hate, and the importance of the community to “keep our doors wide open.”
Long Beach Police Department Commander Randy Allen said 25 police officials and 25 fire officials were in attendance at the vigil, to provide security but also show their support.
Others in attendance included a Pasadena couple originally from Orlando, who journeyed to Long Beach just for the vigil.
“It’s a family/tourist destination…seeing tragedy strike there, in many ways it was completely unexpected,” said Katie Kover. “[…] It kind of hit close to home. We’re very fortunate that everyone we knew was ok.”
“It’s a great community and especially LGBT community is really tight knit and extremely close….it’s something we wanted to show our support to in any way we could,” said Andrew Kover.