Grieving continues Monday in Charlotte and the nation over the lives lost in Sunday’s mass shooting in an Orlando nightclub.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s Homicide Support Group plans to hold a vigil at 6 p.m. Monday on the steps of the Law Enforcement Center at 601 E. Trade St.
A Charlotte nightclub is scheduled to host a vigil at 8:30 p.m. Monday at The Bar at 316, at 316 Rensselaer Ave.
Mecklenburg Ministries and the Charlotte Coalition for Social Justice have scheduled an interfaith service at 6 p.m. Tuesday at St. Peter's Episcopal Church, 115 W. Seventh St. in uptown. The service will continue at Romare Bearden Park.
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This week’s vigils follow at least two other services that brought the Charlotte community together Sunday to remember the 49 people who died and the 53 who were wounded by a gunman during Latin night at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, which caters to a gay clientele.
“It’s like a blanket of sadness is laid over us,” said Kimberly Melton, who was introduced as the new executive director of Charlotte Pride on the same day as the shootings.
Clergy, elected officials and advocates for the local gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community condemned the shootings, now believed to be a case of domestic terrorism in support of the radical Islamic State group.
Democratic state Rep. Tricia Cotham summed up the feelings many people have expressed in a message sent Sunday from her cellphone: “Devastated. Angered. Saddened. Outraged. Heartbroken.”
But the bloodshed and losses were perhaps most devastating for members of the LGBT community, which is often a target of attacks.
“The LGBT community has historically faced adversity across the nation and world, and because of that we are resilient and we will continue to stand strong against violence and hatred,” Equality NC Executive Director Chris Sgro said.
The suspected killer, Omar Mateen, 29, of Port St. Lucie, Fla., called 911 to state his sympathy for ISIS before he was shot dead by police who entered the club in an armored vehicle.
The shooting occurred during the celebration of Ramadan, a holy month for Muslims.
President Barack Obama had recently designated June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month.
“The fact that this horrific event occurred during Pride month – a time in which our community remembers our past and celebrates our future – only solidifies our resolve to call to action an effort which will end these senseless acts of violence,” said a statement from Charlotte LGBT Chamber of Commerce.
Gov. Pat McCrory reached out to Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Sunday to offer condolences and “any assistance we as a state can provide.”
“The shooting that occurred in Orlando was a tragedy, and something that should never take place in our country,” McCrory wrote in a statement. “Those who died were innocent victims of an inexcusable act of violence.”
Members of the Charlotte Latin Pride committee held a vigil for solidarity Sunday at the Charlotte Pride offices. A prayer vigil also was held Sunday at Davidson College Presbyterian Church in Davidson.
“Everyone is coming together with love,” said Melton, executive director of Charlotte Pride. “That is the most important thing. We have to continue to love in the face of hate.”
The Billy Graham Rapid Response Team sent chaplains to Orlando “to assess where and how to best offer emotional and spiritual care,” according to its Facebook page.
“My prayers are with the many victims and family members who lost loved ones in the senseless shooting – now being called an act of terrorism – at a gay nightclub in Orlando early this morning,” Franklin Graham, BGEA president, wrote in a statement. “Life is precious, and we only have one chance to live our lives here on this earth.”
The response to the massacre in North Carolina and across the United States shows America’s true values, U.S. Sen. Tom Tillis, R-N.C., said in a statement.
“We are reminded of the true character of our nation and its people, witnessing the courage and bravery of law enforcement officials and first responders, as well as the generosity of everyday Americans who have already formed long lines to donate blood to help save the lives of victims,” he said.
Southern Evangelical Seminary President Richard Land issued a reminder that America’s constitution offers religious freedom but also calls for lawful behavior.
“America is a nation of immigrants, and she welcomes people who want to become Americans, which includes accepting our laws and freedoms and a commitment to not seek the overthrow of our political system by violent means,” Land said, quoting President Theodore Roosevelt.
Officials at the Islamic Center of Charlotte are working with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police to tighten security after the attacks, said Jibril Hough, a spokesman for the center, which provides weekly prayer services for about 600 Muslims in Charlotte.
“Anytime something like this happens – in America or halfway around the world – the ones who don’t understand who we are, they tend to take their frustrations out on us,” Hough said. “We’re the focal point of what they don’t understand.”
Hough condemned the violent attacks by radicals and said the killings in Orlando violated the laws of Islam.
“Islam does not permit homosexuality, but by the same token Islam does not permit taking innocent lives,” he said. “Killing innocent people is one of the greatest sins that you can commit.”
He made a plea for tolerance instead of violence.
“We need to work toward a world and a society where we don’t have to agree on faith, sexual orientation or lifestyle,” Hough said. “We need to live in a society that is tolerant of different ways of life even though we disagree.”
Karen Sullivan: 704-358-5532, @Sullivan_kms