I rounded up my partner, his niece, and as many of my friends as I could to answer the call to rally and hold a candlelight vigil at Los Angeles City Hall to protest and mourn the 49 people that were killed at a gay nightclub in Orlando Florida, which is being called the deadliest mass shooting in United States history and the worst terrorist attack in U.S. soil since 9/11.
The Los Angeles LGBT Center hosted the vigil.
“Police are calling it ‘a domestic terror incident,'” stated the event’s Facebook page “Whatever it is called, it is all too familiar to the LGBT community. Last year nearly two dozen transgender women were murdered nationwide. In the most recent report in Los Angeles, the 2014 Los Angeles County Hate Crime Report, hate crimes on the basis of sexual orientation grew by 14%, and their level of violence surpassed the last 13 years.”
“We cannot allow this hateful, murderous incident to silence us,” the statement continued. “Yes, we must express our grief and anger. But we must also make it clear that we will NOT be deterred by hate and violence, and that we celebrate in defiance of bigotry and fear. We stand for peace. We stand for community. We stand for Orlando.”
Lorri L. Jean, the CEO of L.A. LGBT Center spoke about being angry.
“We are angry because some of the people responsible are not being held accountable,” She told a crowd of over 2,000 people at the footsteps of the City Hall building. “Don’t be mislead. Yesterday’s attack was not done at the instigation of ISIS. It was carried out by an extremist who was born and bred in the U.S of A.”
“Where do Americans learn this kind of Anti LGBT bigotry and hate? she asked. “They learn it from fundamentalist Christian leadership in this country…who preach hate from their pulpits.”
Jean called out Republican Presidential candidates Trump, Cruz and Rubio for their divisive Anti LGBT rhetoric and lawmakers who pass discriminatory laws to demean LGBT people and permit U.S. citizens to discriminate against us. She also called for the impeachment of Texas Lieutenant Dan Patrick who quoted the Bible via a tweet to state that the people who were killed in Orlando deserved it. “He should be impeached,” Jean yelled. “He is not fit to hold public office in this country!”
“As long as politicians and religious leaders continue to slander LGBT people; as long as they continue to say that we do not deserve the same protections as other Americans; that we’re a danger to children, or that somehow our oppression is justified by their personal view of religion; it permits the kind of violence that happened yesterday in Orlando and it endangers all of us. These leaders have blood on their hands. They might not have pulled the trigger. But they certainly loaded the gun.”
“Tonight we issue a guarantee to the bigots,” Jean continued. “We will not allow this hateful, murderous incident to silence us. We will continue to express our grief and our anger, just as we will celebrate in defiance of fear and hatred and violence. We stand for freedom. We stand for peace and love. We stand for Orlando.”
Other speakers included Oscar De La O: President, Bienestar Human Services, Vallerie Wagner: Chief Operating Officer, APLA Health & Wellness and former COO, Black AIDS Institute), Justine Gonzales: Los Angeles Transgender Advisory Council, API Equality-LA, Maria Roman: APAIT advocate and counselor, Ari Gutiérrez Arámbula: Latino Equality Alliance Co-Founder & Advisory Board Chair, Rabbi Denise L. Eger: Founding Rabbi, Congregation Kol Ami and John Jude Duran, West Hollywood City Council.
People showed up from all corners of the greater Los Angeles area. Signage expressed love for Orlando, calls for peace and protests for gun control now.
Oh yeah, the mood took a weird yet pretty awesome turn from where I was standing when singer/actress/fashionista/superstar Lady Gaga’s name came up and she stepped up out of nowhere to say a few words. The crowd went from somber to frantic as they tried to rush the footsteps of City Hall to get a closer look. There was screaming and shoving and people being told to step back.
“This is an attack on everyone,” a tearful Gaga told the crowd. “Tonight, I gather humbly with you as a human being in solidarity to take a real moment and mourn the tragic loss of these innocent people. let’s all today pledge an allegiance of love to them and their families. They are sons and daughters, mothers and fathers…everyone here, we represent the compassion and the loyalty of millions of people around the world – you are not alone. Orlando, we are united with you and we are here to remember.”
It was amazing having the star-stature of Gaga’s caliber at the vigil in Los Angeles, specially after Nick Jonas made headlines for speaking at a vigil at Stonewall in New York City. But if people were excited by the presence of Gaga, they were pulled back into the harsh realities of this past weekend, and why she was really there, when the singer removed her hat and started reading some of the names of the murdered victims followed by their age. Most of them were in their early 20s. It was very emotional. A lot of people lost it.
These are the names and the ages of the human beings who were taken out by a military semi-automatic rifle–a rifle that was legally licensed and purchased by a suspected terrorist thanks to the efforts and Republican political influence of the NRA.
Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
Stanley Manolo Almodovar III, 23
Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, 20
Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22
Eric Ivan Rivera Ortiz, 36
Peter Gonzalez-Cruz, 22
Luis S. Vielma, 22
Kimberly Morris, 37
Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30
Darryl Roman Burt II, 29
Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32
Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
Anthony Luis Laureanodisla, 25
Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35
Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez, 50
Amanda Alvear, 25
Martin Benitez Torres, 33
Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37
Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26
Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Pink, 35
Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25
Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez, 31
Oscar to aracena-Montero, 26
Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25
Miguel Angel Honorato, 30
Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40
Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19
Cory James Connell, 21
John p. Rivera Velazquez, 37
Luis Daniel Count, 39
Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33
Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25
Jerald Arthur Wright, 31
Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25
Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega, 24
Jean C. Nives Rodriguez, 27
Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
Brenda Lee Marquez McCool, 49
Yilmary Rodriguez Sullivan, 24
Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32
Angel L. Candelario-Mast, 28
Frank Hernandez, 27
Paul Terrell Henry, 41
Antonio Brown, 29 of them
Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24
The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles closed the evening with the civil rights song “Singing for Our Lives.”
My brain is so fried right now, I can’t EVEN. My heart aches. I’m angry. I’m hurt. I’m tired, but I felt a lot of love for my brethren last night. Life is a gift and a luxury.
Here are some photos I took at the event. Thank you all who were able to make it at such short notice. I tried to look for familiar faces in the crowd.
ORLANDO, WE ARE WITH YOU!!!