Vigil and walk of solidarity in Hebden Bridge for Orlando massacre victims

A vigil and walk of solidarity will be held tomorrow night in Hebden Bridge following the slaughter of 49 people in the Orlando massacre.

Wednesday, 15th June 2016, 3:44 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 6:10 pm

Organisers said: “On Sunday, June 12, the people of Orlando, Florida, were cowardly attacked and robbed of innocent lives.

“The LGBT community around the world is reeling in shock - but staying strong. Please join us in for a walk of solidarity and candlelit vigil on Wednesday, June 15, in support of the families and friends of those who lost their lives.

“Please meet us in St George’s Square, Hebden Bridge at 9pm and bring a candle.”

It is just one of many events to be 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.