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Bermuda holds vigil for massacre victims

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Victims of a massacre at one of Florida's landmark clubs were honoured last night at a quiet ceremony by the Cenotaph on Front Street, organised by local artist Mark Anderson.

The mass killing targeted the gay community, claiming 49 lives at Pulse, Orlando's highly popular gay nightclub.

The names of the dead were recited before a gathering of about 60 as a gentle rain fell.

“As an entertainer and activist, I wanted to show respect to the victims and their families, and show our love, support and prayers to our fellow people,” said Mr Anderson, who recalled attending the club as a performer in 2004 — the year that it opened.

Pulse is a prominent establishment known as a safe space for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the city of 2.4 million residents.

However, in the early hours of Sunday, it became the scene of the deadliest gun rampage in recent American history when the shooter, identified by United States authorities as Omar Mateen, opened fire on revellers.

“Everyone is some way is affected by this tragic, senseless act against the LGBT community,” said Mr Anderson, familiar to Bermudians as the man behind the persona Sybil Barrington.

Pulse, he said, was famed for drag shows: Kenya Michaels and Roxy Andrews, well known contestants from RuPaul's Drag Race, are regulars there.

Adding to the grief, Mr Anderson added, was the fact that the killings coincided with Gay Pride Month, held in recognition of the Stonewall riots of 1969.

Mourners, some sporting rainbow umbrellas, joined him in a show of solidarity at the monument to Bermuda's war dead, where Mr Anderson shared memories of performing on the club's stage.

“As an entertainer, you're used to looking for the exits in case anything was to happen. They had several exits in the back dressing room, where club goers unfortunately did not know about them.”

Ages were read off along with victims' names, and the youth of many of the slain drew shock from some of those gathered.

Prayers were given by Canon Norman Lynas of the Anglican Cathedral, and Father Paul Dean of Holy Trinity Church.

Tony Brannon, a vocal campaigner in support of same-sex marriage, used the occasion to appeal to people to vote in favour of the unions at the June 23 referendum.

Meanwhile, the Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda issued a statement, describing the group as “deeply shocked and saddened by the hateful mass shooting”.

“In a small community like Bermuda, we know how important it is to cultivate safer spaces where LGBTQ people can feel free to express their true selves. It is a shocking violation for those spaces to be brutalised with homophobic and transphobic violence.”

The attack was a blow “against the global LGBTQ community during the month of Pride”, the alliance added.

“This attack was also not solely the result of one man's gun, but the end result of systems and cultures that spread homophobia and transphobia. When LGBTQ people are seen as less-than-human, as not deserving equal human rights and respect, a target is painted on our backs. In Bermuda, we need to tackle these systemic roots of homophobic violence, to see each other all as equals deserving of equal rights, if we truly want to stand in solidarity with the victims of this shooting.

“The Pulse massacre is heartbreaking. The Rainbow Alliance of Bermuda would like to remind our LGBTQ community and allies that we do not tolerate hate, Islamophobia, or religion bashing.”

The statement closed: “We exist solely in the realm of love, and for that reason, love must win. Be proud. Love and light to Orlando.”

Uniting as one: Mark Anderson, far left, organised a vigil at the Cenotaph for the Orlando mass shooting victims. (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Maurice Forbes, centre, holds a candle with others during a vigil for the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. (Photograph by John Locher/AP)

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Published June 13, 2016 at 2:17 pm (Updated June 14, 2016 at 7:32 am)

Bermuda holds vigil for massacre victims

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