New Yorkers packed the streets outside Stonewall Inn Monday night to honor the memory of the 49 people who lost their lives in last year’s Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando.
Thousands of members of the New York LGBTQ community, as well as allies, gathered for an evening of speeches, poetry and music as a way to pay tribute to the lives of the victims and show support for stricter gun control laws.
On June 12, 2016, a gunman stormed Orlando’s Pulse Nightclub and opened fire on a room packed with defenseless revelers, killing 49. The club was a refuge for many, especially members of the Latinx community — 23 of the victims were from Puerto Rico.
On Monday night in Manhattan, Keinon Carter, a 32-year-old who was in the Pulse nightclub at the time of the shooting, spoke publicly for the first time about the tragedy.
“Countless incidents have taken place across the globe, and the incidents become more grave when they reach our front doorstep,” Carter said. “There are no other words for it, but that it needs to stop.”
Throughout the night, victims names and bios were read aloud. Among those reading were Councilmember Corey Johnson and Public Advocate Letitia James.
On the steps of City Hall Monday morning, the mood was more somber as Latinx members of the LGBT community gathered in a pledge to never forget what happened.
Lillian Rivera, the director of Advocacy & Capacity Building at the Hetrick-Martin Institute, said parents must start teaching acceptance from a young age, and awareness can’t wait until high school.
“We need to teach our kids to love other people, regardless of who they are,” she said. “Our LGBT kids deserve to be free, they deserve to be safe, they deserve to be in their own spaces without fear.”
Ari Sivion, 63, who lives in Greenwich Village, said he saw violence against the LGBTQ community in his home country of Israel.
“When I came to the USA, I thought we would never have to face this,” Sivion said. “But we are, and we need to fight, not only for LGBTQ people, but for all our nation.”
The evening’s mood was upbeat at times, and Sivion made clear that he believes the only way to truly honor the victims is through a celebration of life.
“Orlando decided to celebrate the victims,” Sivion said. “People mourn in different ways. In celebration, you create support. Orlando wanted to turn this into love, not hate.”