Candlelight vigil supports LGBTQ community after Orlando shooting

7 months 1 week 2 days ago June 13, 2016 Jun 13, 2016 Monday, June 13 2016 Monday, June 13, 2016 2:37:00 PM CDT in News
By: Lauren Barnas, KOMU 8 Reporter
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COLUMBIA – More than 500 people showed up to mid-Missouri's candlelight vigil in downtown Columbia Monday night to honor victims of the Orlando shooting.

The vigil also aimed to honor others in mid-Missouri impacted by the tragedy. Many LGBTQ organizations and several University of Missouri groups and churches organized the event.

Cheyenne Shanks, a Mizzou student, recently came out as transgender to her friends and family. She said, despite support from her loved ones, the Orlando shooting horrifies her.

"It was very scary because I already hear a lot of violence against trans people," Shanks said.

More than 500 people showed up to last night's vigil honoring Orlando victims. 

The peaceful vigil also turned into a discussion about race. Some said the mass shooting was only about gay rights. Others said we must learn to love every part of everyone, including both race and sexual orientation.

Sean Olmstead, University of Missouri LGBTQ Resource Center coordinator, said his organization will speak about violence at the vigil.

"This is something that we don't tolerate. We don't accept that there is violence in our community and we don't want to see that happen here in Columbia," Olmstead said.

He said, despite decades of growing acceptance of the LGBTQ community, there is room for progress.

"There's still a reason to be fearful just by trying to be yourself. This is an example of that. People were wanting to be celebratory," Olmstead said. "They were wanting to celebrate who they were in a place where they feel safe and they still faced violence."

Linda Hayes has a gay son. She said it's easier for her and her husband to go to LGBTQ events.

"The reason I'm here tonight is because I was saddened yesterday that so many young people lost their lives in such a tragic way," Hayes said.

But her and her husband said it might not be as easy for others to rally after the shooting.

"I think the events of Saturday night show why people are truly afraid. They're afraid for their lives," she said.

Supporters are using the hashtag #WeAreOrlando to show their support.

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