Hundreds of Nottingham citizens gathered at the Brian Clough statue in the city centre on June 18th to hold a vigil for the victims of the Orlando shooting.

The statue was adorned with the rainbow flag and was surrounded by tea lights arranged to read ‘LOVE 49’.

A framed photograph of the faces of the 49 victims, shot last week in one of Orlando’s most popular gay nightclubs, Pulse, was placed on the steps. Two smaller placards flanked the flag, reading “Notts is with Orlando” and “Love wins, stay proud”.

Members of the public were given the opportunity to write messages of solidarity on paper poppies or a second flag, laid on the floor in front of the statue.

“I lost a friend in Orlando and it was one of the worst bits of news I’ve ever received”

As 8pm approached, the official start time of the vigil, ‘Let It Be’ and ‘All You Need Is Love’ played over the speaker system. A minute of silent reflection, introduced by the event organiser, was then respected.

Those who wished to speak were given the opportunity to address the crowd. Many of the speakers chose not to introduce themselves by name, but gave accounts of their personal experiences as members of the LGBTQ+ community.

One male speaker told listeners: “I lost a friend in Orlando and it was one of the worst bits of news I’ve ever received. He was a friend I made in high school half way across the world in India. I’m not sharing his name because tonight is about more than one individual”.

“However, there is one thing he shared with me when we met in high school. He said, ‘when you find the LGBTQ+ community, it’s not just about people that you’ve met, strangers that you’ve met – it’s your family'”, he added.

“We have the rainbow flag at half mast in recognition and sorrow at what has happened”

Mike Edwards, Councillor for the city centre and The Meadows, then spoke on behalf of Nottingham City Council. He acknowledged that he had the “full support” of all of the city’s councillors to speak at the vigil and reminded those gathered that “we have the rainbow flag at half mast in recognition and sorrow at what has happened”.

He expressed his concerns that there had been six assaults in the last six months in The Meadows, two of which were hate crimes, before closing by congratulating the vigil’s organisers on their success.

Mike’s speech was followed by further personal testimonials from various members of the community.

A speaker who identifies as a queer Muslim explained that it was “heart-warming” to see the “diversity of people” who stood in solidarity with the victims of the Orlando shooting.

She told listeners: “When you’re somebody who already feels marginalised…when events like this happen, you really can see the strength in the community. It goes to show how much this has affected people”.

“It’s nice to see that in a world so desensitised to hate, we can still come out like this in solidarity”

Throughout the speeches, several speakers and listeners were moved to tears. One of the closing speakers, met with a round of applause, said through tears: “It’s nice to see that in a world so desensitised to hate, we can still come out like this in solidarity”.

The vigil ended shortly after 8.30pm to the sound of ‘Bridge Over Troubled Waters’ playing from the speakers.

Nottingham Critical Mass is holding a solidarity bike ride on Friday June 24th for the victims of the Orlando massacre. The organisers are meeting between 6 and 6.30 by the tram lines opposite the Council House in Nottingham City Centre and urge anyone who wishes to attend to do so.

Tamsin Parnell

Image: Impact News

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