Like many cities and towns across the nation, Baltimore reacted with sadness, anger and resolve to the massacre at Pulse in Orlando on June 12.
“It’s another sad day in America,” Don Davis, the owner of Grand Central, a bar in Mount Vernon, told the Blade. “I cannot imagine what the club owner and the families of all the victims are going through.”
Asked if he plans to increase security because of this horrific attack in a gay club, Davis said he employs four security staff on weekends for Grand Central who are watchful of suspicious activity.
Vigils were quickly organized and well attended to mourn for the casualties from the horrific shooting spree carried out by Omar Mateen. Two vigils were held Sunday night and others were scheduled during the week in Baltimore, Columbia, Westminster and Frederick as well as other parts of Maryland.
One took place Sunday at Memorial Episcopal Church in Bolton Hill. At another vigil at the Washington Monument organized by Matt Thorn, executive director of OutServe, about 150 attended and heard a number of speakers including Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, who discussed safety for the LGBTQ community.
On Monday, more than 1,000 people attended a spirited and moving candlelight vigil on the Ynot Lot in Station North. The event was organized by the GLBT Community Center of Baltimore, the LGBT Health Resource Center of Chase Brexton Health Care, and Free State Legal and Equality Maryland.
Jabari Lyles, president of the GLCCB emceed the proceedings and set the theme at the outset. “What happened in Orlando was a legacy of hate,” he said.
More than a dozen speakers and performers took the stage, including Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, State Sen. Catherine E. Pugh, police Commissioner Kevin Davis, Del. Mary Washington as well as other community leaders.
“I stand with you and Baltimore stands with you,” said Rawlings-Blake—a sentiment that was echoed by Davis.
Alfredo Santiago, who represents IRIS, a Baltimore Latino LGBT group and was one of the speakers, told the Blade, “We send out our condolences to the victims that were killed and the over 50 wounded victims. We unite ourselves in solidarity with Orlando’s LGBT community in this time of communal pain and suffering. We hope to see the day when people will not violently be targeted because of his or her LGBTQ identity.”
On Sunday, elected officials and LGBT leaders weighed in on the tragedy.
Mayor Rawlings-Blake, who had City Hall lit up in rainbow colors, tweeted: “My thoughts & prayers are w @orlandomayor & all Orlando on this very sad day. #Orlando has already demonstrated its unity in this tragedy.”
Her likely successor, Sen. Pugh, stated, “I know that I speak for many as I extend my deepest and most heartfelt condolences to everyone impacted by yet another act of mass violence. We stand with you in solidarity tonight and in the days ahead, and we resolve with you, to continue all of our work together toward the day that everyone can live their authentic lives in the environment free of hatred, violence and fear.”
Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, whose 7th Congressional District includes parts of Baltimore, tweeted: “The shooting in Orlando was senseless and tragic. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their loved ones.”
Del. Mary Washington, the first out African-American lesbian to serve in the Maryland legislature and who represents the 43rd District in Baltimore said in a statement, “Today one gunman armed with an ‘assault-type rifle’ and a handgun killed more than 50 people, and injured more than 50 others because they were dancing and loving at the Pulse, a Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Queer Night Club in Orlando, Florida. These members of our community were simply massacred for who they are, as so many of us are every day. It reminds me and all same gender loving people that none of us is safe, when hate has its hand on the trigger.”
Merrick Moses, a member of the clergy and a community activist, summed it up well. “It is not uncommon for LGBTQ folks from all over the gather at a dance club on Saturday,” he posted on Facebook. “It could have been any one of us in there.”