Community sends “a message of love, of grace” following mass shooting

COLUMBUS (WCMH) – The LGBTQ community is coming together to show support for the families and victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting.

Stonewall Columbus held a rally Sunday afternoon to stand in solidarity with the community in Orlando. This horrific tragedy comes just before Stonewall Columbus kicks off the 35th annual Pride celebration this weekend.

“We have to show solidarity with our brothers and sisters of the LGBT community,” says rally participant Steve Shellabarger. “It’s a tough day.”

In the wake of violence, people in Columbus are coming together.

“We want them to know that even though I’m not there physically, I’m here for you emotionally and spiritually as well,” says Lucy Little.

“It’s important for me to be here because I believe it’s extremely important to communicate a message of love, of grace, solidarity,” says John Rush.

PRIDE WEEK SOMBER STARTInside the Stonewall Columbus Center, people watched in disbelief, witnessing the aftermath of the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

“When it happens to one of us, it happens to all of us because again we are family,” says Little. “We’re connected by our stories, our history, our tragedies, so it’s definitely important we always show up.”

Leaders in the LGBTQ community say this tragedy will not stop them from hosting this weekend’s Pride festival.

“We want people to know that we have a very safe event,” says Stonewall Columbus executive director Karla Rothan. “It’s a family event and we take maximum precautions especially after the bombings in Boston to make sure that our pride is one of the safest in the nation.”

“We are a community that has never let hate or fear stop us and hate nor fear will stop us this week, we will come together,” says Columbus City Council member Shannon Hardin. “We will host the safest pride we will come together as a community to celebrate, but also to remember those.”

Rothan says tens of thousands of dollars are spent each year on security and undercover police officers for the Pride celebration.

GOODALE MARCHBRAVO also held a vigil Sunday night at Goodale Park.

“We’re going to show love, we’re going to show strength,” says Debe Turnbull, president of BRAVO. “We’re not going to let this scare us. We’re not going to answer it with more hate.”

Hundreds gathered and then marched to the Union Cafe, where they tied ribbons and flowers to the fence in memory of those who died.

“We’re not going back in the closet. We’re not going to be afraid,” says Turnbull. “We’re going to show how resolute we can be.”

Nick Hart who attended the event says he was extremely nervous waiting to hear back from his friends in Orlando today.

“They’re hiding in their bathrooms,” he says “I know people who had to crawl out through air conditioning vents just to be free.”

UNION CAFEBut, among the tears and sadness, there was also love and pride.

“I’m leading off the parade this year. I’m not going to change that. I’ll be front and center as drum major of Pride because this is my community,” says chief marketing and promotions officer for Union Cafe and Axis Nightclub Sam Schisler. “Hate is hate and love is love and that’s what will win.”

Union Café is also matching $2,500 in donations that will go to the families of the victims involved in the shooting that occurred on the morning of Sunday, June 12 in Orlando, Florida.

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