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Local News

Pensacola Pride Continues This Week After Vigil

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Lindsay Myers
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A candlelight vigil is being held tonight in Pensacola’s Seville Square to honor the victims of Sunday’s massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando. The tribute is being presented by several local LGBT organizations, whose members are still reeling in the aftermath of the attack. 

The timing of the shooting is significant, in the middle of National LGBT Pride month. And, locally, Pensacola PRIDE week had just gotten underway says organizer Doug Landreth.

We went to bed Saturday night in a state of jubilation and euphoria with the conclusion of our most successful kickoff of our Pensacola PRIDE Week with our Festival in the Park.”

Landreth notes the contrast in emotions Sunday morning when they awoke to hear the news that 50 people had been killed and 53 others wounded after a gunman identified as 29-year old Omar Mateen opened fire in Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub.

This is something that illustrates, once again, that while there is certainly a diminishing segment of our population that still has a(n) almost death grip on hatred and bigotry based on sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. Even though that’s shrinking, they seem to be more emboldened to act on their ill-guided beliefs and intentions.”

No one could have anticipated the scope or severity of what happened in Orlando. But Landreth says the fact that there was a backlash shouldn’t be surprising, given lessons learned from every civil rights movement in U.S. history, following significant advances. such as last year's supreme court ruling on marriage equality.

Ashley Rupp is board president of Pensacola’s STAMPED Film Fest. She said the attack is a huge setback to recent progress. Despite the blow, she believes the attack on the LGBT community will serve to strengthen their resolve.

It’s never going to stop all of us from fighting to remind everyone that we are all humans. We are all part of the same family. Love is love. And love will always win. Despite the number of times we get knocked down, we will always stand back up again, and we will always stand together.”

STAMPED joined UWF Lambda Coalition, Pensacola Pride and other organizations to sponsor Monday night’s candlelight vigil beginning at 6:00 p.m. in Seville Square. Rupp says she hopes it will be a moment of solidarity for all segments of the community.

As horrible as the events are that took place in South Florida, it’s always nice to see something positive come of that. And, anything that brings us together is definitely positive.”

And, despite the tragedy in Orlando, Rupp and Landreth say pushing ahead with this year’s celebration of Pensacola PRIDE is the right thing to do.

Rupp said “Oh, absolutely, if there’s any time for us to continue to push forward with our cause, this is it.”

Doug Landreth agrees.

We are not going to have this act of terrorism and hatred push back into the closet. We’ve been working too hard and too long.”

And, so Pensacola PRIDE week events will continue. Following the candlelight vigil, author Lawayne Childrey will read from his book “Peeling Back the Layers, A Story of Trauma, Grace and Triumph.” The talk and book signing will be held at 7:30, at Bonelli’s Café on 1217 N. 9th Ave.