‘We can only stand together’: Portland vigil for Orlando massacre draws hundreds

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PORTLAND — Vowing not to be silenced or to let fear rule their lives, an estimated 400 people gathered Monday night outside City Hall for a vigil to remember the June 12 shooting victims at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

“We cannot turn back the clock; we can only stand together,” Woodfords Congregational Church Pastor Carolyn Lambert told the Congress Street crowd. “We will hold your hands and your heart as you grieve.”

With the toll in the shootings at 50 dead, including shooter Omar Mateen, and 53 injured, EqualityMaine volunteer Michael Sweeney said just handing out ribbons before the vigil meant a great deal to him.

“I’m generally a peacemaker, but I have been angry the last couple of days,” Sweeney said. “This is very cathartic for me.”

State Rep. Matt Moonen, D-Portland, who is also the executive director of EqualityMaine, estimated the size of the crowd by the number of responses he received before the hour-long vigil. People stood at the base of the steps in City Hall Plaza to the curb on Congress Street as speakers from the LGBTQ community and local clergy addressed the gathering.

“I am so tired of the labels; I am so tired of the divisions,” Reza Jalali, coordinator of multicultural student affairs at the University of Southern Maine, said. “Innocence can be murdered, as we have seen. But our determination to love one another can never be destroyed.”

As intermittent rain fell and breezes occasionally blew out candles, the crowd heard how difficult life can be in the LGBTQ community.

“Does it seem to anyone else this is why we gather in crowds this size?” asked Quinn Gormley, who is transgender. “We know our own queer siblings are dying every day.”

In brief remarks, Mayor Ethan Strimling noted how well the community responded to acts of violence based on gender, race or sexual orientation.

“Every time, Maine has stood up and found love,” Strimling said. “You have said no to hate.”

Michelle Patrick, a leader of Pride Portland, urged everyone to attend or march in the annual Pride Portland parade at noon Saturday, June 18, to show continued support and love.

Westbrook resident Tara Lawrence leaned alone against City Hall as she reflected on her need to attend Monday’s vigil.

“I think it is important not to be fearful,” she said. “I would never not be present.”

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Lynn Deeves sings “Over the Rainbow” as more than 400 people fill Portland City Hall Plaza Monday, June 13, in a vigil to honor victims of the Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando.

The flame is passed to Deena Metzler on June 13 at a Portland City Hall vigil for victims of the Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando. It was estimated that at least 400 people attended.

EqualityMaine Program Coordinator Gia Drew speaks at a June 13 Portland City Hall vigil in honor of the victims of the Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando.

The Maine Gay Men’s Chorus sings to a crowd of more than 400 people during a June 13 Portland City Hall vigil in honor of the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando.

Mayor Ethan Strimling listens to speakers June 13 at a Portland City Hall vigil for the victims of the Pulse nightclub shootings in Orlando. Strimling also spoke briefly during the hour-long event.

Tara Lawrence of Westbrook listens during a June 13 vigil in honor of victims of the Pulse nightclub shootings outside Portland City Hall. “I would never not be present,” she said.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.