Thousands crowded the streets Monday around the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan where large-scale gay rights activism got its start in 1969.
Under banners heralding the upcoming Pride Week event, people held hands and hugged. Some waved rainbow flags and others carried signs showing support for Orlando as they listened to a slew of elected officials, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Spectators watched from fire escapes and windows of nearby apartment buildings as chants of “love beats hate” rang from the crowd.
Thomas Dougherty, 23, of Manhattan, said he came to the rally to feel united and connected.
“Seeing everyone here makes me feel at home, makes me feel safe,” he said.
Ricardo Negron Almodovar was at the Pulse nightclub when the attack occurred.
“Our hearts are with the families and loved ones who were affected by the monstrous attack during Latin night at Pulse nightclub, a space that celebrates self-expression and diversity by opening its doors to the Latino community and immigrants from all nationalities,” he said in a Tuesday statement.
“The only way to survive and thrive as a community is to continue to fight for a world where people are free to be their true selves, to live and love without fear, regardless of sexual orientation, identity, religion, or immigration status. We stand in solidarity with the LGBT and Muslim communities as we reflect on the senseless violence,” the Florida Immigrant Coalition staff member added.
In the city where the shooting happened, thousands of people gathered Monday evening to support victims and survivors.
Many in the crowd in downtown Orlando said they were inspired to attend because the Pulse nightclub, where the massacre occurred, played a huge role in their lives as gays and lesbians.
“Pulse gave me confidence, made me realize I was normal and so much like everyone else,” said Cathleen Daus, a former employee at the club.
The vigil was held on the lawn of the Dr. Phillips Center, the area’s main performing arts venue. It’s also the location of a makeshift memorial, where people have been leaving flowers, candles and notes for the victims.
Several other Florida communities also have events planned.