Hundreds of Jacksonville residents gathered in Riverside’s Memorial Park Sunday evening to honor and mourn the victims of a mass shooting early Sunday morning at the gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando.
Amber Paoloemilio, who read a list of victims' names, struggled to get through tears.
The City of Orlando is updating a list of victims’ names as police notify the families of the dead.
In Memorial Park, people held onto rainbow flags, candles and each other. Chad Rogers was there with his husband. He says he doesn’t know how to help, but just being here is something.
“It’s shocking that this can happen still and that someone can get inside a public area and kill that many people so quickly,” he said.
Orlando police say suspected shooter Omar Mateen pledged his allegiance to ISIS in a 911 call just before the shooting.
But Cindy Watson, Executive Director of the Jacksonville LGBT youth support group JASMYN, says that shouldn’t invite more hate toward others.
“We will not hold the Muslim community, who are also our friends and neighbors, responsible for the heinous act of one person,” she said. “We will stand together with all our friends and allies tonight and in the days to come.”
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Watson spoke along with religious leaders and city officials. Watson also called on Jacksonville to expand its human rights ordinance to protect the LGBT community, "to send the most powerful message possible to anyone who would dare to attack us, that this city will not stand for hate and violence and discrimination,” she said.
The city’s human rights ordinance already protects people in several classes like race, religion and age, from discrimination in public places, housing and employment.
City Councilman Tommy Hazouri sponsored legislation that would have added LGBT protections, but he withdrew it when support waned this year.
Hazouri spoke at Sunday’s gathering along with Councilwoman Joyce Morgan.
Some in attendance questioned the absence of Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry. He released a statement Sunday saying his prayers were with the city of Orlando.
The vigil ended with hundreds singing the Civil Rights anthem “We Shall Overcome.”
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