Pain, unity at Philly vigil for Orlando

Emotions ran raw at a vigil outside Philadelphia City Hall Monday evening to mourn the victims of a mass shooting in an Orlando nightclub.

A crowd of hundreds filled the plaza north of City Hall, spilling out into the street nearby, including many from the LGBT community.

Many wept as speakers paid tribute to Philly native and victim Akyra Murray, 18, who graduated West Catholic high school last week and was among the 49 killed in the shooting atPulse nightclub early Sunday.

“As a queer black woman, I really wanted to support people, especially after hearing about the woman from West Catholic,” said Felicia Carter, 23, of Elkins Park. “Being able to come out and show support, especially in a large public place, is courageous and really important for the community.”

Some at the vigil were too overcome with emotion to speak. Others were bitter, with one young man shouting, “They’re scared of a transgender in the bathroom, but they’re shooting us in bathrooms!”

Others questioned media coverage of the massacre and the motives of shooter Omar Mateen.

“The media immediately made it seem like an Islamist attack, which it doesn’t seem it was,” said Christopher Thornton, 26, of Mantua, who held a placard reading “Queers Against Islamophobia.”

“People within the LGBT community know it was about violent homophobia, rampant masculinity, American values, white supremacy,” he said. “They say he was an Islamist, and maybe he was. But most pictures show him dressed up like an NYPD officer.”

Numerous Muslims were in attendance at the vigil as well.

“Muslims who follow Islam don’t hate anybody on earth. … I don’t care about what your orientation is. I hope you don’t care about mine, whatever it is, race, religion,” said Abdul Hakim Dogon, 30, of Northeast Philly. “Whatever he was feeding his mind, his third eye, his pineal gland – that was wrong.”

Mayor Jim Kenney called the shooting “a devastating moment.”

“To LGBT members of our community, we love you, we care about you, we need you, and we have your back,” Kenney said.

Council President Darrell Clarke took a more political stance in his comments at the vigil, calling the situation in which the shooter was able to legally acquire his weapons “utterly ridiculous.”

“You do not need a gun with 30 bullets in a clip to shoot a deer,” Clarke said, to cheers. “We’ve got to stop this, and we’ve got it now.”