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Vigil For Orlando Shooting Victims Draws Hundreds To Downtown Pensacola

Bob Barrett

A candle light vigil was held Monday evening in Pensacola to remember the victims of this weekend’s shooting in Orlando. "Pulse, Orlando will be rebuilt, and I will be back there as well as all my friends because, well, our pulse is strong." Justin Jones just moved to Pensacola from Orlando where he was a regular at the Pulse nightclub, the scene of Sunday morning’s massacre.

Credit Bob Barrett / WUWF News
Entertainer Vanessa Vogue reads passages from scripture at Monday's candle light vigil in Pensacola.

Justin was one of about a dozen speakers at the vigil at Seville Square Monday evening. Under the threat of rain, Justin spoke about his feelings when he heard Pulse was the target of the attack. "This is my home that this person walked into. That is my home that was defiled. That is my family who were hurt. Those are my family that have died."

There was a crowd of a few hundred people in the park, holding candles and each other as clergy and community leaders spoke about the tragedy. Donna Stough from Gay Grassroots of Northwest Florida gave an emotional speech about what she called a government that wants their votes but forgets about their needs. And she spoke about continuing to work for equal rights. "We have to stand strong. We have to be proud. We have to teach our children to follow in our footsteps the way we followed in the footsteps of the people before us. The people who gave us the right to stand here." Stough talked about the people who fought for years for gay rights and marriage equality. To cheers from the crowd she said "To do nothing is to accept defeat, and we will never accept defeat."

The vigil appears to have organized almost organically. Sean Sumpter works at Cabaret in Pensacola. About a hundred people met in front of the bar and walked to the vigil. He says he hopes the evening brings support and healing to everyone. "This isn't about religion or race or sexual orientation, this is about love. And there are so many people ready and willing to support love."

Reverend Booth Iburg, Pastor at the Eternal Hope Church in Ft. Walton Beach called the shooting something that happened to us all. She says she has heard from many fellow Pastors that people have been reaching out for comfort. She joined other ministers at the vigil talking with people who needed help. She was very happy with the number of people who showed up at Monday's candle light vigil. "I'm so happy to see people here tonight because I saw too many people mention fear (of coming here on the internet). And I'm so glad to see people who will not let fear hold them back, or let 'what if's hold them back. Because we're strong and will only get stronger from this." 

As the speakers took the stage, some in the crowd appeared to be lost in their thoughts; others were listening and cheering…while other just held on to a friend or companion. But when local entertainer Vanessa Vouge asked the crowd to help with a Psalm 23, many of the people began reciting with her beginning with the opening "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want".