Thousands of people gathered in London's Soho yesterday (June 13) to honour the victims of the Orlando shooting.
Those who wanted to express their solidarity came together to hold a two- minutes' silence for the 49 victims who lost their lives to Florida gunman Omar Mateen.
The gathering was organised by drag artist Nathan Sparling, who performs under the name Nancy Clench, from a venue that suffered its own homophobic attack in 1999 when David Copeland detonated a nail bomb at the Admiral Duncan.
Nathan, concerned about America's lack of free healthcare, said:
“The Orlando Regional Medical Centre acted swiftly, under extreme pressure and should be commended for how their staff, surgeons and doctors have responded to the largest mass shooting in Modern American history."
"I think it is only right that we help to contribute to the cost of their service to our friends and members of our community. That’s why I’m hosting a fundraiser, in honour of our 49 Orlando friends, for the Orlando Medical Foundation.”
Such was the depth of feeling for the victims, the silence extended beyond the allotted time before the crowd broke into applause, laughing, crying, hugging and feeling
The London Gay Men's Chorus then performed songs including the classic 'Bridge Over Troubled Water'.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was in attendance, saying:
"This is a fantastic turn out of people in London and other cities around the country just showing that they’re determined that the real message to those who commit hate crimes is – we will defeat them with love and solidarity and support.”
Other politicians spotted included Labour Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Chris Bryant MP, and Conservative Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan MP who helped carry through the legalisation of gay marriage despite spirited opposition from her party peers. Sadiq Khan, the new London Mayor, also lent his support.
The last 30 years has seen much improvement, with the repealing of Section 28, and most recently, the legalisation of same-sex marriage. A sense that the work was done has been shattered by the massacre, which has shocked people out of complacency.
Chants of 'We're here, we're queer, we will not live in fear" roused the crowd, which was peppered with banners proclaiming equality for all, and lamenting how domestic violence can often lead to murder.
Gareth Joyner (Myra Dubois to the initiated) said:
"It's vital that we head out into our bars and line the streets in solidarity with our kind across the globe.Once again we find ourselves as the receivers of hateful, deliberate violence but we must be defiant and refuse to be victims. I'll be there tonight in unity with my fellow LGBT people, with our straight allies and with a hand of friendship towards the non-LGBT Muslim community. We must refuse to be divided."
Chief Executive of GMFA (Gay Men's Health Charity) Matthew Hodson believes it's important political complacency doesn't take hold. He said:
"The roll call of the dead, which has been considerably lengthened by this terrible crime, is a reminder that more must be done to tackle hatred. This is true in the 77 countries where homosexuality is still criminalised."
The sombre mood transfigured into one of celebration and what started as funeral ended as wake. The crowd took to such festivities as a vogue-off with DJ Stewart Who capturing the moment:
It wasn't just the LGBT and allies of London who pulled together. Vigils were held throughout the country, and all over the world. Events were held in Coventry, Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester (where actor Julie Hesmondhalgh spoke) Brighton and more.
The crowds eventually dispersed, but the evening made it very clear: We are not small in number, we will not be quiet, and we will always have each other.
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