About 200 people gathered in Dupont Circle Monday night to remember the victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting one year after the attack.
With candles in hand, attendees wiped away tears as Jose Gutierrez, the founder of the Latino GLBT History Project and DC Latino Pride read aloud the names of each of the 49 people killed at an Orlando nightclub that was a haven for members of the LGBTQ community.
The Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, a political action group, hosted the vigil to bring the community together in remembrance and to advocate for tighter gun laws including requiring background checks for all gun sales, preventing suspected terrorists from buying guns and limiting the availability of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, Jason Lindsay, the founder of the organization, said at the vigil.
“We need important events like this to bring folks together and to ensure we can create change,” he said in an interview at the event.
On June 12, 2016 a man who had sworn allegiance to ISIS opened fire on “Latin Night” at the Pulse nightclub in a shooting authorities described as both a terrorist attack and a hate crime. Many of the victims were Latino and members of the LGBTQ community.
Mayor Muriel Bowser, who joined the vigil, said D.C. stands with Orlando to remember the lives lost in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history and echoed calls to crack down on gun violence.
“We all have a responsibility in our nation to promote common sense regulations that will keep us all safe,” she said.
On Saturday, Bowser dedicated June 12 as Orlando United Day to commemorate those killed in the shooting.
— Mayor Muriel Bowser (@MayorBowser) June 2, 2017
Catherine McCarthy, a Pride Fund volunteer whose friend Christopher “Drew” Leinonen was killed in the shooting, challenged the crowd to push for tougher gun laws to prevent future mass shootings.
“In conversations, I find that many in the public assume that his friends would have found inner peace and a sense of earned calm,” she said. “We instead feel a quiet but white hot anger.”
Throughout the ceremony, members of the crowd reached over one another to keep their candles lit and choked back tears as a bell tolled with each name read aloud.
Jeremy Lares of Arlington, Va. said he came to the vigil to pay his respects to the victims of the shooting because he sees himself in every person who was killed a year ago.
“For me, being a gay man, coming out, going through some trials and tribulations with that, the hatred that was shown that day it just kind of transformed something inside me,” he said.
Zeke Caceres, a New York resident who identifies as queer, was in Morocco when the Pulse shooting occurred and was unable to grieve in a country that is not accepting of the LGBTQ community.
“I just wanted to be in a space where other people were kind of remembering what had occurred last year and standing in solidarity with each other,” Caceres said. “This was kind of my chance for me to feel that.”
During the vigil, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C. sang “True Colors” and John Lennon’s “Imagine” before inviting the crowd to join in on their rendition of “We Shall Overcome.”