'We are Orlando': Hundreds gather at gay rights landmark Stonewall

By Ed Adamczyk  |  Updated June 14, 2016 at 8:04 AM
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NEW YORK, June 14 (UPI) -- About 500 people gathered at New York City's Stonewall Inn, the birthplace of the gay rights movement, to pay tribute to the Orlando, Fla., nightclub shooting victims.

An attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando early Sunday by a man wielding an assault rifle and a handgun left 49 people dead and 53 injured. Formal and informal responses around the world have included universal condemnation of the act and the formation of vigils at churches, parks and other public places.

One such meeting was Monday evening, 1,000 miles from Orlando at the Stonewall Inn in New York's Greenwich Village. In 1969 gay patrons of the unassuming bar fought back violently against routine police raids with spontaneous demonstrations and unwillingness to meekly accept arrest for simply being there.

"The Stonewall Riots" are widely considered the start of the gay rights movement and Monday's vigil, which featured speeches by prominent elected leaders, reinforced the bar's reputation as a place to gather, in celebration or in solemnity.

"I can remember the days when cops were raiding this place," William Drummer, 91, told The New York Times. "It touches my heart to see this kind of solidarity."

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York Police Commissioner William J. Bratton, singer Nick Jonas, actor Tituss Burgess and several openly gay members of the City Council spoke, each decrying the assault in Orlando and calling for calm. Several mentioned the lack of action in Congress on passing comprehensive gun reform legislation; others spoke warmly of the Stonewall Inn as a place of refuge and comfort for the city's gay community.

On a makeshift stage featuring an American flag, the rainbow pride flag and a sign reading "We Are Orlando," Cuomo said, "We passed gun control in this state. We outlawed assault weapons in this state. We know it can be done. Until we have a national policy, none of us are safe."

De Blasio said "We do not accept anyone who would sow division or hatred. We do not accept the notion of any of our leaders sowing hatred and division in the wake of tragedy, and that means you, Donald Trump."

He added that, despite the heavy presence of police, many in counter-terrorism gear, at the event, no credible threat similar to the attack in Orlando has been directed at New York City.

Stacey Lentz, co-owner of the Stonewall Inn, commented, "The LGBT community has survived so much before, from AIDS to hate crimes, and we're continuing to show that we're strong and love wins. Those victims could've been any LGBT person at any bar around the country, but gay bars have always been one place where we can feel free. We refuse to have that taken from us."

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