Vigils of solidarity held in Hebden Bridge and Halifax for Orlando massacre victims

editorial image
0
Have your say

There were touching scenes in Hebden Bridge last night as crowds gathered in the town to hold a vigil and walk of solidarity for Orlando massacre victims.

Organised by Happy Valley Pride, there was an outpouring of support with around 200 people gathering in St George’s Square.

Candles were lit as a poignant tribute to those who lost their lives.

HebdenRoyd Town Council, the Mayor, Calderdale Council and West Yorkshire Police also stood side-by-side with to show their support and pay their respects.

Speeches were made by Happy Valley Pride chairman Mike Stephens, vice-chair David Kennedy, LGBT activist Paul Fairweather, Rochdale Unitarian Church minister, Shammy Webster and musician, Terry Logan.

Everyone took part in a walk of solidarity around Hebden town centre, clutching candles, flags and banners, many holding hands and even strangers as a sign strength and support.

A prayer was said and held a minute’s silence taken.

Terry Logan broke the silence with her song, Believe.

There will also be emotional scenes in Halifax this Saturday from 7pm at the town hall.

A minute’s silence will be held at 8pm.

The vigil has been organised by Coun Marcus Thompson as a mark of respect to the victims of the tragedy.

The events are just two of many being held across the world following the horrific attack on the Pulse gay club in Orlando.

Officers blasted a hole in the wall of the club in a desperate effort to save revellers as Omar Mateen held hostages in a toilet at the gay nightclub.

John Mina, chief of police at the City of Orlando Police Department, said Mateen barricaded himself in a toilet with around four or five hostages after shooting some of his initial victims and called the police, speaking in a “cool and calm” voice with crisis negotiators.

When he spoke about “bomb vests, about explosives” and made threats of an “imminent loss of life”, police made the decision to blast through the wall with an armoured vehicle, which Mr Mina said saved “many, many lives”.

Mr Mina also confirmed that when Mateen was on the phone to officers “there was allegiance to the Islamic State”.

The Archbishops of York and Canterbury said Christians must “speak out in support of LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and/or intersex) people” who have been “brutally targeted by the forces of evil”.

In a joint statement, John Sentamu and Justin Welby said: “We must pray, weep with those affected, support the bereaved, and love without qualification.

“The obligation to object to these acts of persecution, and to support those LGBTI people who are wickedly and cruelly killed and wounded, bereaved and traumatised, whether in Orlando or elsewhere, is an absolute call on our Christian discipleship.

“It arises from the unshakeable certainty of the gracious love of God for every human being.”

President Barack Obama called the massacre - the worst mass shooting in recent US history - an “act of terror”, while Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said: “We will not be defined by the act of a cowardly hater.”

More than 300 people were inside the nightclub when the sound of gunfire was first heard just after 2am local time (7am British time).

The killer fired repeatedly before taking dozens of revellers hostage, leading to a stand-off lasting around three hours.

As Mateen, a 29-year-old bodybuilder of Afghan origin, held a small group in one toilet, around 15 to 20 people took cover in a second toilet opposite.

Speaking to reporters in Orlando, Mr Mina said: “Based on information made by the suspect and from the hostages and people inside, we believed further loss of life was imminent. I made the decision to commence the rescue operation and do the explosive breach.”

The explosion failed to fully penetrate the wall so police used an armoured vehicle to punch a hole through it, allowing them to rescue dozens of people.

Mateen fired on officers with a handgun and a “long gun”, thought to be an AR-15 rifle, after he emerged from the club, before being killed.

A third weapon was also found in his vehicle, authorities said.

All the victims’ bodies have now been removed from the club and FBI investigators are painstakingly working at the scene to reconstruct the night’s events.

Paul Wysopal, the FBI’s special agent in charge, said they had processed 100 leads so far.

US Attorney Lee Bentley said authorities had collected a “great amount” of both electronic and physical evidence as part of the criminal investigation.

He said: “We do not know yet whether anyone else will be charged in connection with this crime, but we have no reason to believe that anyone connected to this crime is placing the public in imminent danger at this time.

“But there is an investigation of other persons... if anyone else was involved in this crime they will be prosecuted.”

In defiance of the attack, residents in Orlando queued in their hundreds to donate blood to help those in hospital being treated for their injuries.

Members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community also held vigils in the state, scenes of solidarity which have been mirrored across the world.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said he was “horrified” by the shootings, while Buckingham Palace said a personal message had been sent to Mr Obama saying the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh were “shocked” by the events in Orlando.