June 8, 2017 at 6:00 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Orlando to mark year since Pulse nightclub massacre

June 12 marks a year since a gunman killed 49 people and injured 53 others when he opened fire inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Monday marks a year since a gunman killed 49 people and injured 53 others inside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

The city of Orlando and Orange County have designated Monday as “Orlando United Day — A Day of Love and Kindness.” The Orlando United Day website says June 12 “will be dedicated to honoring the memory of the 49 innocent Pulse victims, supporting survivors and recognizing the compassion and love that was displayed by the Central Florida community following the tragedy.”

The gunman opened fire inside Pulse shortly after 2 a.m. on June 12, 2016. The massacre, which took place during the gay club’s weekly Latino night, is the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and others will attend a memorial at the Orange County Administration Center on Monday at 10:30 a.m. A ceremony to honor the massacre’s victims and those who survived it is scheduled to begin at Pulse at 11 a.m.

Olga Tañón, a Grammy-award winning Puerto Rican singer, and Sisaundra Lewis, a semi-finalist on the sixth season of “The Voice,” are among those who are slated to perform at the “Orlando Love — Remembering Our Angels” tribute that will take place at the Lake Eola Amphitheater at 7 p.m. A second gathering will take place at Pulse at 10 p.m.

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People visit the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on Oct. 9, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The University of Central Florida will also pay tribute to the Pulse victims on Monday. Churches and community organizations in Orlando and through and Central Florida are scheduled to hold their own vigils and memorials.

“What happened at Pulse was the darkest day in our city’s history, and we continue to grieve for the victims and fight for those who are still suffering,” said Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan in a press release that announced the Lake Eola tribute. “This June 12, our entire LGBTQ community and our allies need to stand together and continue to show that we are a strong, united city that responds with love.”

Nearly half of the 49 people who died inside Pulse were LGBT Puerto Ricans.

A memorial to the Puerto Rican victims is scheduled to take place in San Juan on June 22. The Hispanic Federation and Proyecto Somos Orlando on June 13 are scheduled to hold a meeting in Orlando that will focus on how the Latino LGBT community continues to recover from the massacre.

“This tragedy was the worst in our community’s history,” Pedro Julio Serrano, founder of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, a Puerto Rican LGBT advocacy group, told the Washington Blade on Monday. “We’re still healing, mourning, resisting.”

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A plaque in Third Millennium Park in San Juan, Puerto Rico, pays tribute to the victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

A candlelight vigil to honor the massacre victims is scheduled to take place in Dupont Circle on June 12 at 7 p.m. The Pride Fund to End Gun Violence — which formed in response to Pulse — held an event at Town Danceboutique on Wednesday.

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Hundreds attend a candlelight vigil at Dupont Circle on June 13, 2016, for the victims of the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Equality Florida launches #HonorThemWithAction campaign

The Human Rights Campaign and Equality Florida are among the dozens of LGBT advocacy groups who backed gun control efforts in the wake of the massacre.

Then-President Obama reiterated his calls for gun control after he and then-Vice President Biden traveled to Orlando in the days after the massacre and visited a makeshift memorial to the Pulse victims in downtown Orlando. Then-candidate Donald Trump reiterated his call to temporarily ban Muslims from entering the U.S.

The gunman, who was born in New York City to Afghan parents and lived in Port St. Lucie, Fla., with his wife, pledged his allegiance to the so-called Islamic State in a 911 call he made from inside the nightclub. There is no evidence to suggest ISIS prompted him to carry out the massacre.

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Then-President Barack Obama speaks to reporters in front of a makeshift memorial to the victims of the Pulse Nightclub massacre in downtown Orlando, Fla., on June 16, 2016. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Equality Florida last month launched the #HonorThemWithAction campaign. It calls upon “individuals and organizations to honor those killed (at Pulse) by taking action to uproot the hatred that feeds bullying, harassment, discrimination and violence.”

“In the days that followed the Pulse massacre, shock and disbelief turned to grief and anger,” said Equality Florida CEO Nadine Smith.

“At a moment when some sought to meet fear with fear and hate with hate, we saw a community pull together across difference and unite in a commitment to challenge bigotry and hatred, not nourish it,” she added. “#HonorThemWithAction is a reminder and a pledge to uproot hatred and bigotry of all kinds and make the world a different, better, and more equal for all of us.”

Editor’s note: Michael K. Lavers will be reporting from Orlando, Fla., from June 11-13.

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Equality Florida CEO Nadine Smith hugs GLBT Community Center for Central Florida Executive Director Terry DeCarlo during a press conference in Orlando, Fla., on June 12, 2016. The press conference took place hours after a gunman killed 49 people and injured 53 others inside the Pulse nightclub. (Washington Blade photo by Jason Fronczek)

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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