Town centre vigil for Orlando shooting victims

COMMUNITY members, police officers and politicians turned out for a vigil to remember the victims of the Orlando shooting.

The event on Friday evening was organised by Rotherham’s The Rainbow Project which works towards a brighter future for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Nichola Goodson, trustee for The Rainbow Project, said it was an opportunity for Rotherham LGBT community, its friends, family and allies to stand in solidarity, light a candle in remembrance and sign a book of condolence which will be sent to their friends in Orlando.

The Mayor of Rotherham, Cllr Lyndsay Pitchley gave a speech, along with Green Party and National Union of Teachers representatives.

Chief Insp Richard Butterworth, who is the force lead on hate crime, was also part of the 50-strong vigil.

Nichola read out a message of support from MP Sarah Champion and the attendees took the opportunity to remember murdered MP Jo Cox as well.

The leader of Sheffield Pride also sang John Lennon’s Imagine.

On June 12, 49 people were killed and 53 were injured by a gunman who opened fire on club goers inside gay nightclub Pulse in Orlando, Florida.

Omar Mateen, who was shot by police, was responsible for the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman and the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in US history, and also the deadliest terrorist attack in the US since the September 11 attacks in 2001.

The shooting shocked the local LGBT community, Nichola said, and had made people question if they were safe.

Nichola (43) said: “But it’s also brought a lot of people together and it makes you realise we have got good support networks.”

She added: “Pulse is a safe place and the people in there should have been safe from that sort of attack \a it has really struck a chord with us. I know people think we live in an inclusive society but we don’t.”

The trustee said many people who the Rainbow Project helped come up against attacks and prejudice, so the vigil was a chance for people to stand in solidarity.

It was also a chance, she said, to “show people we are still here and that we do still need support from the outside world”.

The hour-long vigil was held at the Heart of Steel sculpture in the Minster gardens in Rotherham town centre on Friday.

A minute’s silence was observed for the victims and the book of condolence will be available to sign at The Rainbow Project’s stand at Armed Forces Day this Saturday in the town centre.

Nichola added that this year’s Rotherham Pride festival at Clifton Park on July 16 will be dedicated to the victims of the shooting.

For more information visit www.therainbowproject.org.uk.