Public Safety

Published on June 14th, 2016 |


Atlanta grieves for victims of Orlando nightclub massacre, holds vigils

(Editor’s Note: This story was updated on Tuesday at 4:20 p.m. to add information about a new vigil planned for Wednesday.)

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and City Councilmembers Alex Wan and Mary Norwood, who represent Buckhead, joined a Midtown vigil Sunday night following the Orlando attack on a gay nightclub that left 49 persons dead and another 50 or more injured.

Remembering the victims but celebrating our community, Wan said in social media posts. “Love conquers hate.” Mayor Reed was among those expressing “unwavering support” for lesbian, gay,

The crowd of Atlantans who gathered downtown Sunday night at a vigil for the victims of the Orlando nightclub massacre.

The crowd of Atlantans who gathered downtown Sunday night at a vigil for the victims of the Orlando nightclub massacre.

bisexual and transgender people and noting that June is LGBT pride month.

“The city of Atlanta shares in your grief today and stands shoulder to shoulder with the city of Orlando and with every American city which has had to endure such unspeakable acts of violence and terrorism,” Reed said in a written statement on Sunday, adding that during LGBT pride month, “I am saddened that moments of joy have been turned to tears of grief, anger and sorrow by this act of hate.”

In a written statement, Wan, who represents a part of southeast Buckhead stated, “I am completely heartbroken over the senseless and tragic attack on our brothers and sisters in the LGBT community in Orlando this morning. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of those affected by this horrific incident.

“I know that the LGBT community, our family and friends will come together to comfort and support each other as we absorb this devastating news. May we all come through it stronger and more united than before,” said Wan.

The corner of Tenth Street and Piedmont Avenue was peppered with rainbow flags Sunday night as hundreds of Atlantans gathered to mourn after the Orlando nightclub attack, where 49 people were killed by a gunman.

City Councilman Alex Wan

City Councilman Alex Wan

People spilled into the streets as mourners lit candles and sang songs outside the club, TEN Atlanta, as the sun set. Matt Garrett had helped organize the event.

“Tenth and Piedmont is a symbolic corner where the LGBT community comes together all the time, ironically enough a year ago this month to celebrate marriage equality, and now we know that we still have a very long way to go,” Garrett said.

He said he had many friends in Orlando who were all alright, but all of whom knew someone who’d been injured or died in the attack.

Another vigil, organized by various civil rights and religious organizations, is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 14, at Atlanta’s National Center for Civil and Human Rights. It will focus on the attack that targeted a gay club on its “Latino Night.”

(UPDATE: Covenant Presbyterian Church, 2461 Peachtree Road in Buckhead, will hold a prayer Wednesday, June 15, at 7:30 p.m. to remember the victims of the Orlando shooting and to pray for them, their families and the people of Orlando.  Everyone is invited.  All who attend are welcome to light a candle as they enter the sanctuary to remember the victims. For more information, click here.)   

“I came here tonight just to be here with everybody because to the extent that we eliminate stigma, we eliminate targets,” said Reed, who added he’d been working on security strategy that day. He also said he planned to sit with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community leaders to work out where and how best to keep them safe.

“Police protection can be misconstrued to be abuse. We’ve had that history in our city, and I don’t want to repeat it,” Reed said.

Sunday night’s gathering was well-monitored by Atlanta police.

The Atlanta Police Department, which has two LGBT community liaisons, also expressed its sympathy with Orlando on its Facebook page with a photo of the city seal set against the backdrop of a

Mayor LKasim Reed

Mayor LKasim Reed

rainbow flag. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and families of the tragic shooting in Orlando, Florida,” the department said.

“We have officers in plainclothes, we have officers in uniform as well as officers in different posts throughout this area,” the Atlanta Police Department’s LGBT liaison Acashia Lavigeour said.

She said it was important for her personally to be a part of the community embrace.

“I’m from Fort Pierce, Florida, where the alleged gunman was from. Orlando is an hour and a half away from where I’m from. I’ve been to Pulse before, so it is a very touching subject, but I’m a part of the LGBT community and I wanted to come out and support as well,” Lavigeour said.

Councilwoman Mary Norwood, said in a Facebook post, “Such an important vigil tonight — how much we are grieved by the horrific massacre in Orlando, but also how resolved we are in our determination to keep our Atlanta safe and welcoming for us all.”

Councilwoman Felicia Moore, who represents a section of Buckhead, also posted on Facebook, “It is with much regret and sorrow that I send condolences to the victims of the horrific mass shooting in Orlando. My prayers of healing go to all affected, their families, friends and our great nation.”

From Washington, Congressmen John Lewis and Tom Price issued statements condemning the attack and supporting the victims, though Lewis focused on tighter “assault weapon” controls and

Sen. Johnny Isakson

Sen. Johnny Isakson

Price on more anti-terrorism funding.

“Now more than ever, America must show resolve and leadership both in our words and our actions to fight back against those who seek to disrupt the cause of freedom and to destroy lives,” Price said. “We must remain unwavering in our commitment to fight radical Islamic terrorism both at home and abroad by providing our first responders and our troops with the resources and tools they need to protect our nation and citizens.”

“The people of the 5th Congressional District of Georgia send their most profound and heartfelt prayers to the people of Orlando,” said Lewis. “We lift up the victims, their families and the LGBTQ community of Orlando. We pray they will all be rocked and soothed in the protective arms of unconditional divine love in the difficult and dark days of healing that lie ahead.”

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson said Monday, during an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, that the shooting rampage that left 49 dead at a gay nightclub in Orlando at the hands of a killer who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State proved it was time to declare a “no holds barred” war against Islamic terrorism.

“There’s only one thing you can do with people who will kill themselves to kill you, burn you in a cage on the town square or blow themselves up,” Isakson said during an editorial board meeting at the AJC. “We’ve got to kill them first. That ought to be our mantra.”

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