San Francisco

Across the Bay Area, Thousands Hold Vigil to Mourn for Orlando Victims

The Bay Area was mourning following Sunday’s devastating mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, in which a crazed gunman claiming affiliation with ISIS killed at least 50 people and injured 53 more at a gay nightclub. It is the deadliest shooting in U.S. history.

Although the investigation was in the early stages, there were indications that shooter Omar Mateen, 29, was once upset by seeing an openly gay couple kiss, according to an NBC News investigation. Investigators are treating this as a hate crime.

In San Francisco, a city often heralded for being a longtime-haven for members of the LGBT community, Mayor Ed Lee released a statement expressing "deep sorrow" for the people of Orlando. He said the violence served as a "stark reminder" of violence that continues to threaten diversity and inclusivity.

"San Francisco grieves with the people of Orlando, the LGBT community and the nation,” he said.

A makeshift memorial was growing rapidly in the Castro district, with flowers, candles and signs honoring the Orlando victims. Signs at the corner of Castro and 18th streets had messages such as "Orlando SF Weeps" and "RIP Orlando."

"It's just really sad, you know. We live in this world where we're supposed to be the melting pot country," said Chey Hernke, who came by to visit the memorial. "We should be coming together; we don't need all this hatred."

The Pride flag was flying at half-staff in the Castro dsitrict to honor the victims.

City Supervisor Scott Wiener, who represents the Castro district, was the first to speak out. He arranged a vigil Sunday at Harvey Milk Plaza, an apt location considering its named after the first gay city supervisor, who was also a victim of gun violence. Hundreds of people attended. 

"There's a perception now because we have marriage equality that our fight is somehow over, that it's all good," said Wiener, who is gay. "We have a lot of work to do; there is still enormous bigotry in this country."

Wiener issued a stern warning to fellow politicians who “attack” members of the LGBT community, saying they “define us as less than fully part of society.”

“That has to stop,” he said. “We mourn today. And then we fight.”

Many in the LGBT community arrived at the vigil to not only share their grief but also to share a commitment to keep pushing.

"We're here today for the opportunity to mourn those we've lost, and really to mourn the impact of violence on our community," said Rebecca Rolfe, of the SF LGBT Center. "But also really come together to pledge that we will not continue to accept this kind of violence targeting us as a community."

Wiener also addressed the gathering at Castro and Market streets.

"This location has a long history of our community coming together to mourn, to celebrate, to get ready to fight, and that's what we're doing tonight," he said.

After the vigil, many from the gathering marched to City Hall in a show of unity.

Congressman Mike Honda, President of the Board of Supervisors London Breed and others also issued statements expressing sorrow for the victims and their loved ones.

In the East Bay, a community vigil also was held at Oakland City Hall and Frank Ogawa Plaza.

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