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Boston shows support for Orlando shooting victims

Hundreds fill City Hall Plaza, pray for peace

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO
Boston shows support for Orlando shooting victims
Members of the South End Dynamite baton twirlers group demonstrate in solidarity with victims and survivors of the massacre in predominantly Latino gay nightclub in Orlando Florida.

Americans woke to the ugly specter of domestic terror Sunday morning as news of a mass shooting in a predominantly Latino gay nightclub in Orlando made its way through social media feeds and into the airwaves.

A lone gunman armed with an AR-15 assault rifle shot 102 people, killing 49 at the Pulse Orlando club in what many are calling the deadliest mass shooting in modern history. The shooting, coming nearly a week before the anniversary of the Charleston, South Carolina church shooting that left nine black worshipers dead, underscores what many see as an increase in the volume and violence of hate crimes in the United States.

Author: Photo: Chris LovettJeremiah E. Burke student Ronyae Newberry Walker is comforted by Burke Headmaster Lindsa McIntyre as she addresses a community gathering in front of the school.

“It’s deeply concerning that we have spaces where we’re supposed to be safe — a black church, a Latino nightclub — where we aren’t safe because we’re being targeted,” said Ivan Espinosa-Madrigal, Executive Director of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Equal Justice. “These are attacks being perpetrated on people of color.”

On City Hall Plaza, as hundreds of demonstrators joined city and state officials for a display of solidarity with the victims of the Orlando massacre and their families, West Roxbury resident Alejandra St. Guillen said she was shocked to hear of the mass shooting Sunday morning.

“As a member of the Latino LGBTQ community, you feel a sense of kinship with the people who were there and the families who are experiencing loss,” she said. “It’s a profound sense of sadness.”

State Rep. Liz Malia spoke about the rise in hate speech and hateful rhetoric in this year’s presidential campaign.

“This is the consequence of all the negativity and hatred,” she said.

“South Carolina last year, and now this,” added Democratic Party activist Karen Payne, shaking her head.

“It only takes one act to destroy the successes we’ve had, the hope that we’re coming together as a country,” Malia said.

But in many ways the country did come together Monday, as people across the United States and around the globe held solidarity rallies.

“Three short years ago, the people of Orlando stood with us,” Mayor Martin Walsh said, referring to the outpouring of support for the city in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing. “It’s important for the people of Orlando to know that we stand in solidarity with them.”

Walsh asked the hundreds who gathered on City Hall Plaza Monday to sign a condolence book that city officials plan to send to Orlando.

Espinosa-Madrigal said the outpouring of support for the victims of the shooting should serve as a rallying cry for equal justice and inclusion.

“This is a reminder that we need to protect people’s rights and their sense of belonging in this country,” he said.

Tragedy strikes in Grove Hall

The mass shooting in Orlando has sparked renewed calls for stricter gun control laws, with many questioning why the shooter, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, could legally purchase an assault rifle that has been linked to other mass shootings, including the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School incident that claimed the lives of 20 children and 6 adults.

 More than 6,000 people in the United States have died in gun violence so far this year. One of those victims, 17-year-old Jeremiah E. Burke high school student Raekwon Brown, was slain in a shooting that left three others injured and send shockwaves through a school community.

Monday morning, dozens of supporters gathered in front of the Grove Hall high school building to greet students as they entered.

“It means so much to me to have a community wrap its arms around us,” said Burke Headmaster Lindsa McIntyre, addressing the gathering. “Sometimes it feels like we’re an island and boats can’t get to us. But today, the boats have arrived. Our students are resilient. They have a great community and a great school.”

Organizer Carlos Henriquez, who convened the gathering, said the event was a showing of love for the students.

“It was put together by grassroots organizers,” he said. “It shows we can convene and show up for people without waiting for support from outside our community.”

Henriquez said that the event spurred 80 volunteers to up to mentor Burke students.