In Two West Village Vigils, Message Is "We Shall Overcome" - Gay City News | Gay City News In Two West Village Vigils, Message Is "We Shall Overcome" - Gay City News | Gay City News
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In Two West Village Vigils, Message Is “We Shall Overcome”

Thousands gathered outside the Stonewall Inn on Sunday evening to commemorate those killed in a gay bar massacre in Orlando Florida. | DONNA ACETO

Thousands gathered outside the Stonewall Inn on Sunday evening to commemorate those killed in a gay bar massacre in Orlando Florida. | DONNA ACETO

BY PAUL SCHINDLER | In two vigils in the West Village on Sunday evening, one crowd numbering in the thousands, another in the hundreds voiced shock, grief, and anger over the murder of 50 patrons of a Orlando, Florida, gay bar in the early morning hours of the same day.

Speaker after speaker emphasized that the violence cannot be isolated from a climate of anti-LGBT hatred that continues to persist across the nation, but also pledged to continue building community to respond to hostility and bigotry where it exists.

At the same time, both crowds rejected the notion that hate is an appropriate response to the violence and specifically called out efforts to pit the LGBT community against the Muslim community over a tragedy in which the shooter, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, is reported to have phoned 911 just prior to the melee and pledged his allegiance to ISIS.

Mir Seddique, Mateen’s father, told NBC News that his son, who legally changed his last name a decade ago, was angered several months ago when, accompanied by his own young son, Mateen witnessed two gay men kissing in Miami.

The attack on Orlando’s Pulse nightclub came on the night it was holding its weekly Latin evening.

The Stonewall vigil emphasized the ongoing battle against anti-LGBT bigotry. | DONNA ACETO

The Stonewall vigil emphasized the ongoing battle against anti-LGBT bigotry. | DONNA ACETO

Ken Kidd, a member of Queer Nation New York, which took the lead in organizing a rally outside the Stonewall Inn that drew several thousand people, told those assembled, “We come together because this is a community that will never be silent again. I ask every person to think of someone you knew who was killed because of anti-LGBT hatred. Think of a time when you felt unsafe in your own community. And I want every single one of you to think not of what anyone else, not of what I, but of what you can do to change that.”

Saying the LGBT community should draw strength from the 50 Pulse nightclub patrons who were killed, Kidd said, “We must go forward in love.”

Speaker after speaker emphasized that hate is no response to Orlando. | DONNA ACETO

Speaker after speaker emphasized that hate is no response to Orlando. | DONNA ACETO

Mirna Haidar, a representative of the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity, told the Stonewall crowd that she has faced discrimination in the US as a Muslim refugee and as a gender-nonconforming woman, but urged everyone to avoid allowing the LGBT community to be set against Muslim Americans because of the Orlando massacre.

At that point, a heckler started screaming, “It is a Muslim issue” over and over again. The crowd turned on the heckler, shouting, “No hate. No hate.”

Haidar noted that federal blood donation guidelines bar sexually active gay and bisexual men from giving blood, a stinging stigma that the community continues to bear due to unscientific fears.

Mirna Haidar of the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity. | DONNA ACETO

Mirna Haidar of the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity. | DONNA ACETO

Michael Pruslow, who came down to the West Village from his home in Washington Heights to attend the vigil, voiced discomfort with the focus on the word “hate.”

“It’s not about hate,” he told Gay City News. “Yelling that is just the same thing as what happened. We need more love. We need to love each other.”

Explaining, “I was just a mess this morning,” Pruslow said of the Stonewall gathering, “We need to be here. People are so quick to chastise each other, even within the gay community… There is a way to fight without violence.”

As Pruslow spoke to the newspaper, the crowd replaced its “No hate” chant with “More love, more love.”

Despite the conciliatory words emphasized throughout the Stonewall event, which began with the crowd singing “We Shall Overcome,” several speakers pointed to persistent lingering homophobia in the US that must be confronted.

Activist and "Gay USA" co-host Ann Northrop. | DONNA ACETO

Activist and “Gay USA” co-host Ann Northrop. | DONNA ACETO

“This massacre did not happen in a vacuum,” said Ann Northrop, a longtime activist who is co-host with Gay City News contributor Andy Humm of “Gay USA,” television’s weekly LGBT news hour.

She noted an early morning tweet from Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, since deleted, that read, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”

Northrop concluded, “We must triumph over this hate.”

Former State Senator Tom Duane. | DONNA ACETO

Former State Senator Tom Duane. | DONNA ACETO

Tom Duane, the former state senator and city councilmember, told the crowd, “Now Marco Rubio cares about us. Now Bush cares about us. Where the hell were they during the Republican primaries that were spewing all that hate?”

Kevin Graves, a DJ and activist, framed the alternatives the nation faces in responding to Orlando.

“Make no mistake,” he said. “This country is at a crossroads with two alternatives. One is the path of hate and fear. The other is one of love and kindness. Choose the path of love. And action.”

But for many in the crowd, the immediate need was for solace.

The Stonewall vigil had heavy NYPD protection. | DONNA ACETO

The Stonewall vigil had heavy NYPD protection. | DONNA ACETO

Michael Bruno, an Upper West Side resident, explained, “I really didn’t know what to do. This is the only place I knew to come to get away from all the media reports. I heard there was going to be a crowd.”

Gemma Blanks, who lives in Forest Hills, Queens, said, “Hearing about it online, I needed to immerse myself with my community, my family. There is an obligation to be here to offer my condolences to the families of those people killed.”

Blanks, in a mixture of weariness and determination, added, “We’re fighting today. It never ends. We really shouldn’t have to be fighting so hard. But we are.”

CBST's Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, Reverend Fred Davie of the Union Theological Seminary, and Reverend Vanessa Brown of the Rivers of Living Water.

CBST’s Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, Reverend Fred Davie of the Union Theological Seminary, and Reverend Vanessa Brown of the Rivers of Living Water singing “We Shall Overcome.” | DONNA ACETO

Several blocks away, on the steps of Judson Memorial Church across the street from Washington Square Park, a group of interfaith leaders led a more somber vigil that emphasized the dangers of Orlando polarizing Americans with a false choice between the LGBT and Muslim communities.

“We reject any divisions based on faith,” Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah told a crowd of several hundred. She noted the poignant intersection of Shavuoth, the Jewish festival celebrating God giving the Jewish people the Torah, Ramadan, the Islamic commemoration of the first revelation of the Quran to the prophet Muhammad, and LGBT Pride Month.

Judson Memorial Church's Reverend Donna Schaper. | DONNA ACETO

Judson Memorial Church’s Reverend Donna Schaper. | DONNA ACETO

As Judson’s Reverend Donna Schaper offered a prayer to the “God of many names” and spoke of the incomprehensibility of the violence in Orlando, a heckler passing by yelled out, “I’ll tell you what the problem is. It’s radical Islam, and they should all be arrested immediately.”

Faisal Alam, the chair of the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity, told the crowd, “There are no words for me to share my feelings as a queer Muslim.” Then saying, “I can go on and on about how Islam condemns violence,” he noted that a white man heading to the Pride celebration in West Hollywood –– identified as James Wesley Howel of Indiana –– was arrested in Santa Monica after police found possible explosives, assault rifles, and ammunition in his car. The assault rifle used in the Orlando attack, he said, was the same model used in the 2012 Sandy Hook elementary school massacre in Connecticut.

“The religious right, the political right will use this as a wedge,” Alam warned. “We must stand against Islamophobia.”

Sadya Abjani, who is also a member of the Muslim Alliance, said her first “selfish thought” when she heard the news this morning was, “Don’t let the shooter’s name be Muslim.”

Reverend Chloe Breyer, executive director of the Interfaith Center of New York, told the crowd, “Islamophobia is not the answer to homophobia.”

Sadya Abjani of the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity. | DONNA ACETO

Sadya Abjani of the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity. | DONNA ACETO

Saying she “felt broken” when she heard news of Orlando that morning, Reverend Vanessa Brown, senior pastor of the Rivers of Living Water, an LGBT congregation, said, “There is a religious and political agenda that produces a climate of hate. We know that.”

Brown ended by saying, “We are crushed down, but this is my word for anyone who can hear me, we are not destroyed.”

The Judson vigil ended just like the Stonewall gathering began, with the singing of “We Shall Overcome.”


Equality Florida, the LGBT rights group in the state, has started a GoFundMe page to support victims of the Pulse nightclub attack. Click below to contribute:

6 Responses to In Two West Village Vigils, Message Is “We Shall Overcome”

  1. Denny Meyer June 13, 2016 at 9:22 am

    The report is that the killer saw two men kissing and that was what set him off.
    So, a kiss prompted a killing; we have an act of love setting of an act of hate.

    He saw two men kissing. It could have been two black or two Hispanic Americans, or two Christians, two Jews, two Muslims, or two Americans of any kind, or simply two humans, that made him want to kill in response. The point is that this was not simply an assault on gay people. It was at the very least an assault on America, on every American who lives in freedom. Like the killings last year in Paris, it was an assault on humanity.

    What we gay people can say is "We are Americans!" This was an attack on us as a nation. As Gay Americans who have proudly and patriotically volunteered to serve in our nation's armed forces we feel that assault doubly on our identity, on who we are. Sunday afternoon, President Obama said simply and properly that "this was an assault on all of us."

    So, what happens next? Dead people will be outed; life stories will be told; many who were murdered will happen to be Hispanic, some will have been veterans, funerals will unfold. Just now, this afternoon, it was announced that the White House has lowered its flag to half mast. Every last victim deserves an American flag on his coffin whether a citizen or not; as their lives were taken in an attack on America.

    Reply
    • ludwig123 June 13, 2016 at 5:01 pm

      It also could have been a father kissing his son or a brother kissing/hugging his cousin or brother— in fact that happened number of years ago when a homophobe saw two heterosexual brothers hugging and he thought that they were gay. The evil in all of this lies in Ignorance conserved by Religion (all of them) and the abuse of it as well as so -called prophets who think that they speak for God but speak for the devil instead. If a man and woman can kiss in public (civil right of free expression) then why cannot two men et al. We see sports figures hugging up and sometimes kissing during games!

      Could it be that this man claimed that he was following the dictates of ISIS thinking that the Constitutions Religious Freedom clause would protect him —if so that is a fallacy in his thinking. THE BAD NEWS IS that it will not fly. I can now see that his lawyers will try to use the gay panic defense—that will not fly either because it has been tried in many courts before and did not. We cannot violate the civil rights of other using the Religious clause as an excuse to do so. This man is an gross embarrassment to Islam and as his ex-wife said he is probably mentally ill. At least he did not claim that God told him to kill all those people–at least yet.
      I suppose that he will be given a death sentence. I am generally against the death sentence except in cases like this and the one in Charleston.

      IT is said that he wanted to be a professional Law Enforcement Officer—that is a problem with many so-called security guard folks—they cannot pass the tests to be an Officer so they fantasize and play act at it which often gets them in trouble –such as making traffic stops pretending to be a licensed officer when it is all a sham which sometimes develops into a rape.

      Perversely— Could it be that this man finally discovered that he was gay and could not handle it because the dictates of Islam and took it out. We must recall that he was married for 4 months and his behavior with his heterosexual wife was very much out of line.

      Reply
  2. Ira June 13, 2016 at 11:02 am

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

    The Palestinian American Community Center joins all Americans in expressing our sincere condolences to the families of the victims of the tragic mass shooting in Orlando targeting the LGBT community. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends.

    "There is no basis in Islam or any religion to justify or excuse such heinous criminal act. And like all Americans we condemn such criminal and senseless murders of innocent Americans", said Diab Mustafa, the President of the Palestinian American Community Center.

    "The Palestinian American community throughout the United States has always been at the forefront of fighting against discrimination and hate crimes. Whether homophobia or Islamophobia or Anti-Palestinian sentiment, any forms of discrimination and prejudice impacts all of us", continued Diab Mustafa.

    PACC is a strictly non-profit, non-political, and non-religious organization whose mission is to strengthen the local Palestinian American community and to provide social, cultural, educational, athletic and recreational activities.

    Reply
    • ludwig123 June 13, 2016 at 5:09 pm

      Thank you Ira., We all have relatives and friends who cause us gross embarrassment but not to this kind of degree.
      I urge to to police your own community and report suspicious folks who might do these kinds of things as the rest of us try to do. I agree there is no room for religious hatreds in American or elsewhere. Our Constitutions is based upon Tolerance within the bounds of law. We must unite and love each other for hate is a bitter acid that destroys humanity and creates wards as well as misunderstandings.

      Reply
  3. Pingback: Fucking hell, people.

  4. develop your life August 15, 2016 at 2:31 pm

    Very cool

    Reply

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