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Boston shows love for Orlando shooting victims in vigil

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City Hall Plaza in Boston was the scene of a vigil on Monday evening.

Waving rainbow flags and holding signs decrying bigotry and gun violence, about 1,000 people descended on City Hall Plaza Monday night to honor the victims of the weekend shooting rampage at a club in Orlando.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh addressed the crowd at the vigil amid the backdrop of a massive rainbow flag that had been unfurled outside City Hall on Sunday.

"We stand in solidarity with them, and we will continue to stand in solidarity with them," Walsh said of Orlando and the families of the victims, 49 of whom were fatally shot by a self-described Islamic State supporter inside the Pulse gay nightclub.


Dozens more were wounded.

"We will help them in any way that we can," said Walsh, noting that Orlando supported Boston after the 2013 Marathon bombings.

That reference was especially relevant, since authorities say the shooter at the Pulse, Omar Mateen, 29, referenced the Marathon bombers in a 911 call during the deadly attack. But speakers on Monday made no explicit mention of Mateen's extremism and instead focused on healing and calls for unity following the deadliest mass shooting in US history.

Two of the victims had Massachusetts ties: Kimberly J. Morris, 37, a former drag performer in Northampton who had also worked at Smith College, and Springfield native Stanley Manolo Almodovar III.

During Monday's emotional vigil, many in the crowd cried, sang, and held signs urging an end to all forms of bigotry and seeking tougher gun laws.

One sign read: "Yes Love, No Homophobia, Yes Love, No Islamophobia."

Another sign, held by Tesi Kohlenberg, 62, of Watertown, was emblazoned with separate messages on opposite sides of the placard. One side read "Proud Parents of Queer Children," while the opposite side said "Ban Assault Weapons," an apparent reference to the fact that Mateen opened fire with a powerful AR-15 rifle inside the club.


Kohlenberg, whose 22-year-old child is transgendered, said she attended the vigil in part because the news personally affected her.

"We recognize that our child is particularly vulnerable, as a visibly alternative person," she said. "We stand with those we love."

The vigil began with a stirring rendition of the hymn "Let There be Peace on Earth," sung by South Boston resident Thomas Linehan, 52, who wore a rainbow flag lapel on his shirt collar.

Then Walsh spoke, labeling the massacre as "something that we don't expect to happen in our country."

Speakers who followed Walsh called on the crowd to embrace the country's rich diversity in the aftermath of the attack, as a way to foster love and unity among all groups.

"We hope for our hearts, we pray for our hearts to be full of love," said the Rev. Laura Ruth Jarrett, pastor of Hope Central Church in Jamaica Plain.

She called for compassion toward the Muslim, LGBT, Arab, and Latino communities, all of which were affected by the shooting.

Mateen's self-described Islamic State allegiance has prompted fears of an anti-Muslim backlash, and he targeted Pulse during a Latino-themed night at the club.

But Jarrett, in her remarks on Monday night, urged the crowd to reject hatred against all groups and said to applause, "for we know that love is love is love is love is love."

At the conclusion of the 20-minute vigil, the sea of mourners filed into City Hall to sign a condolence book that officials plan to send to Orlando.


As the procession into the building started, a small group briefly launched into a chant of "Take away the guns! Take away the guns!"

Paula Grez, of Plymouth, waved an American flag with rainbow stripes on her way into City Hall. She said she was heartened that "everybody gathered here, and it was very clear that we're not against Muslims," but against gun violence.

Robert Larios, 24, of Newton, said his friend who lives in Florida had told him on Saturday that he planned to go to Pulse that night. Larios said he was relieved his friend had decided to stay home and that "he's safe."

He said news of the attack was particularly jarring, since gay clubs are normally "a safe environment" for the LGBT community, and "usually there's no violence."

Besides Walsh, a number of officials including Governor Charlie Baker, Police Commissioner William B. Evans, and city councilors Michael Flaherty and Tito Jackson attended the vigil.

Attorney General Maura Healey, the state's first openly gay top prosecutor, told reporters afterward that "I want to do everything in my power to protect people, to reduce gun violence, to end these kinds of mass shootings."

Seeing the turnout at the vigil, Healey said, "I'm reminded of the resilience of this community. I'm inspired by that."

Also on Monday, Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley issued a statement on the tragedy. "As our society faces the massive and violent assault on human life in Orlando on Sunday, the Archdiocese of Boston offers and encourages prayers on behalf of those who were killed in the attack, those who were injured, and all their families and friends," O'Malley said.


"The United States proudly upholds its long-standing tradition of being open and welcoming to those in need of a safe haven. Our country greatly benefits from human creativity and achievement cultivated without distinction of race, ethnicity, religion, nationality or any other differentiating characteristic.

"From a multitude of differences we have sought unity. We must meet the challenges of combining freedom, pluralism and unity in our increasingly diverse society if the United States is to continue to be a beacon of hope to the world."

The vigil was a show of solidarity for victims of the mass shooting in Orlando.Keith Bedford
People comforted one another at the vigil.Keith Bedford
Mayor Martin Walsh comforted Jullieanne Doherty, his liaison to the LGBT community.Keith Bedford/Globe Staff
Vigil-goers raised a rainbow flag at the event.Keith Bedford

Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.