Waterloo remembers Orlando at candlelight vigil

Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros

Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros

Hundreds gathered late Thursday night for the Waterloo Region Candlelight Vigil for the Orlando Shootings, held in Waterloo Town Square.

The event was a response to the mass shooting carried out early Sunday morning, June 12, at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

The shooting, carried out on the club’s Latin themed night, resulted in the death of 49 individuals, with another 53 reported injured.

Several vigils and rallies quickly pulled together around the world. Waterloo’s was hosted by Waterloo Region’s Rainbow Coalition and The Order, the region’s only nightclub which strives to create a safe and open space for individuals of all gender identities and sexual orientations.

The event was largely composed of time for speeches, with a number of prominent local politicians, including a representative for Waterloo MP, Bardish Chagger, MPP for the City of Waterloo, Catherine Fife and MPP for Kitchener Centre, Daiene Vernile.

“I think it’s so important for leaders of our community, whether they be at school or in the city or in the region, to come out and show that we support what initiatives are here, to celebrate diversity and also to honour the people of Orlando,” said Dave Jaworsky, mayor of the city of Waterloo.

Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros

Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros

Speakers also included many members of the region’s LGBTQ+ community, including Grace Carr from tri-Pride, Suzie Taka from the Rainbow Reels Queer and Trans Film Festival, Sunna Murphy from Spectrum, among many others.

A common theme throughout the event was a celebration of the power of love and acceptance in combatting such acts of prejudice and hate and of the strong presence of such acceptance and compassion in the region. However, the topic of what has yet to be done and of the struggles and injustices still faced by marginalized, non-heterosexual and non-cisgender individuals, was also raised.

“We were at one time … one of the worst cities for anyone of minorities, or LGBT, or anyone who wasn’t part of the mainstream,” said Rami Said, one of the event’s organizers.

“I actually don’t believe that that’s our city anymore, but until we make steps like this, where we actually get people to recognize who we are and what we want to be, we can’t really go any further.”

Speeches continued until 10:30, including those contributed by attendees who volunteered to speak, before candles were lit and all fell quiet while a moment of silence was observed, followed by a reading of the names of all 49 victims of Sunday’s attack.

Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros

Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros

The vigil was concluded when attendees, ranging from young children all the way to senior citizens, walked in a silent procession down King Street to Princess Street, where The Order and other venues, such as Stark and Perri and Nightschool, had opened their doors to participants.

Though there was a police presence at the event and it was held in and passed through public areas populated by late-night venues, the event was successfully carried out without incidence, except for a brief interruption by a passing train.

Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros

Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros

“I think we live in a very safe community. You know, I think people feel very comfortable in our region coming forward to report crimes of hate to the police, because there’s a belief that they’ll be action, but I think it’s more than just the police. People need to stand up, there needs to be a call to action to continue to promote safety, promote inclusivity, and I think that’s one of the pieces of being here, as a police service, is showing people that they ought to have trust, they ought to have confidence,” said Bryan Larkin, Waterloo Chief of Police.

“But the other piece around this is that when these heinous acts occur, we have to take to the streets, have to show people that we won’t be intimidated, we won’t be bullied, that they’re our streets, our public places.”

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