Brighton and Hove honours the Orlando dead

Hundreds of people took to the streets of Brighton and Hove last night (June 13) to remember the 49 people murdered and 53 people injured in Pulse Nightclub, Orlando, Florida in the biggest deadly mass killing in USA history.

Orlando Vigil

Orlando Vigil

The first part of the Vigil outside the Marlborough was organised by Traumfrau outside the Marlborough Pub in Princes Street.  People lit candles in the Marlborough and then walked up St James Street to join civic leaders by the Aids Memorial in New Steine Gardens where the crowds swelled to many hundreds.

Television broadcaster Simon Fanshawe one of the co-founders of Stonewall the LGBT equality charity opened the Vigil and set the scene with a thoughtful speech explaining why we were all there and asking people not to judge people or blame a religion by the actions of a few.

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The Mayor of Brighton, Cllr Pete West, The Labour leader of the City Council, Cllr Warren Morgan and the Convenor of the Greens, Cllr Phelim Mac Cafferty all made powerful speeches about the importance of standing together in the case of adversity.

Gerry McCrudden from Actually Gay Men’s Chorus read an Irish poem for the families of those who had lost their lives and other speakers included the Mayor’s minister, the Rev Anthea Ballam an interfaith minister representing all faiths and non, Finola Brophy chair of the Rainbow Chorus and a trans speaker who reminded everyone that the nightclub in Orlando was attacked on a party night for trans people, latinos and gay muslims.

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Rainbow Chorus sang Where you there (when hate kicked love to the ground), Homophobia, We shall overcome sung with a passion rarely heard and Something inside so strong, assisted by singers from Brighton Gay Men’s Chorus and Actually Gay Men’s Chorus.

Finally a speaker from each choir, Silvio Grasso, Ruth Hughes and Alan Baser read out the names and ages of the dead before James Ledward urged everyone to always report Hate Crime to the police, no matter how small the incident and called for a minutes noise to mark the lives of “our dead brothers and sisters in Orlando”.

Chief Super Nev Kemp

Chief Super Nev Kemp

Chief Superintendent Nev Kemp, Sussex Police Commander for Brighton and Hove, Sussex Police LBGT Champion and Proud Ally, was not able to attend the Vigil due to prior commitments but issued the following statement, saying: “The tragic events in Orlando should concern all of us. A crime as heinous and cruel as the homophobic attack committed in the Pulse Nightclub this weekend is distressing to anyone with any compassion for the welfare and lives of the innocent people affected by this mass murder.

“Such a terrible event rightly gives us cause to stop, think and examine our own environment. I, like many of my colleagues in Sussex Police, in common with the people living in Brighton and Hove are proud and value greatly, the large, vibrant and diverse LGBT community, who play a huge part in making the city the wonderful place that it is to live, visit and enjoy. We will be flying the rainbow flag from John Street police station at half-mast.“When reflecting on the terrible events in America, it is natural and healthy to consider what it means for us here. We know that whilst it is not impossible to get hold of a firearm in the UK, it is far more difficult to do so than in the US and far more difficult still, to get hold of the kind of deadly assault weapon that was used in the Pulse Nightclub attack.“We have well-developed and rehearsed counter terrorism plans but also work relentlessly on prevention, part of which involves continuously developing intelligence and acting on it.“We know, too, that we will not tolerate hate crime, even if it seems relatively minor and we will continue to work closely with our partners in the City Council and LGBT Community Safety Forum, event organisers and licensed premises to try to prevent it, but to encourage reporting and tackle it when does occur.“The threat level in the UK from international terrorism remains unchanged at ‘severe’ and we will be meeting with the organisers of Pride to consider what if any impact the events in Orlando might have on this event, because we are not complacent and our priority and that of our partners working on the event is and will remain the safety of the public.“But should we be worried? No. We should not pretend that what happened is anything other than a truly terrible event and we are not immune here from the apparent circumstances that led to it being committed, but it is important to keep it in perspective and to show those filled with hate that we will do everything we can to stamp it out, that we will be vigilant but that we will also not be cowed and will continue to live our lives and enjoy our freedom and do so with pride.”

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Photos by Chris Jepson and Alice Blezard.

Video by Daniel Johnson.

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