A second vigil in as many nights was held Tuesday to honor those who lost their lives in the Orlando nightclub shooting over the weekend.
Tuesday’s vigil featured several elected officials and strong calls for gun control.
The evening started with song, as a group of women led the crowd in the civil rights anthem “Ain’t Nobody Gonna Turn Me Around.” Hundreds gathered at Roger Williams National Memorial Park in Providence to mourn the victims of a lone gunman, who opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando florida.
Nearly a year earlier, the LGBT community gathered in the same park to celebrate the Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage nationwide.
The mood on Tuesday was somber, but organizer Kate Monteiro reminded those gathered that progress has been made.
“It is harder today than it was last week, for any of us to say that we are closer to freedom and closer to equality,” said Monteiro. “But the truth is we are. It is harder to say that we are stronger, more loving, more grateful, but the truth is we are.”
But Monteiro added that the shooting, which took the lives of 49 people, is a reminder of the dangers still faced by members of the LGBT community across the country.
“They were, every single one of them a piece of you and me. Deep in his heart, that man, with those guns wanted to take all of our lives.”
Reverend Timoth Sylvia, from a congregational church in East Providence, said the acts in Florida were all the more disturbing because they took place inside a gay nightclub, long considered a place of safety for the LGBT community.
“Together,” said Sylvia, “we must live to not give into the fear, we must celebrate pride, we must befriend our neighbors, we must fill up the dance floors. We must create sacred space.”
The attacks in Florida happened a little less than a week before Rhode Island’s Pride festival. Organizers said the event will go on as planned, but with a heightened police presence.
Addressing the crowd, Governor Gina Raimondo offered her condolences to the families of the Florida shooting victims. She described receiving calls from parents of LGBT children worried for their safety.
“And to all those parents that have called me, and all those parents out there. I want you to know there’s no place in Rhode Island for that kind of hatred, and we won’t stand for it.”
Raimondo, along with many of the night’s speakers called for stricter gun control laws in the state.
“Massachusetts and Connecticut have banned assault weapons,” said Raimondo “and it’s time for Rhode Island to do the same.”
Raimondo added that it’s also important to reach out to Muslims, who are concerned about negative backlash because of the shooter's Muslim background.
“The thing to do right now is to embrace our diversity, to embrace religious freedom, the LGBT community, and to let our state and our country to be a place of freedom for all of these people who come to us with differences.”
Wearing a pale blue hijab, Wendy Ibrahim, a local member of the Muslim faith condemned the attacks before the crowd.
“And as I stand here with you,” said Ibrahim, “wearing the flag of my faith on my head, perhaps evoking fear in some of you. I grieve in the depths of my heavy heart every time a life is lost allegedly in the name of my faith.”
Ethan Huckel, a trans man called on the crowd to fight bigotry and hatred in the state and across the country.
“We have fought for change before, and we have won,” said Huckel. “Let us not go back into the quiet of our homes, and wait for the next tragedy. Let us use the candles we light in mourning to fuel the fire of our souls.”
To close the evening, LGBT activist Rodney Davis took the microphone and sang the hymn “If I can help somebody,” made popular by gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, as the hundreds of LGBT community members and their friends and family looked on.