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Statewide Vigils Mourn Orlando Shooting Victims

Caroline Losneck
The Orlando vigil in Portland Monday.

At least nine Maine communities held vigils in response to the attack on a nightclub in Florida.

Matt Moonen, executive director of EqualityMaine, said the events Monday evening were to “enable us to come together to mourn those lost in Orlando.”

The vigils were held in Portland, Bangor, Auburn, Bar Harbor, Damariscotta, Hallowell, Farmington, Ellsworth and Machias.

Sarah Thorne of South Portland was at the Portland event and says that despite the tragic events in Orlando, she doesn’t want to live in fear.

“The LGBT community, of which I am a part of, we’ve struggled for many, many, many years to feel safe and counted as equal. And so when something like this happens, especially so close to our hearts, I think it’s, I don’t know, it cuts me to my core. To think that this could have happened here, it could be any one of us,” she says.

Oami Amarasingham of Portland was one of the speakers at the event.

“As a person of color, I am very viable in Maine. But as a queer person, I often go unseen. This is an auspicious month. It is Ramadan and it is Pride. Pride, which grew out of a riot at a night club. A night when black and Latina, gay and trans folks fought back against the police,” she says.

“So hold each other’s hands more tightly. Hug a little longer, Kiss with more passion. Look into each other’s eyes more deeply. Dance like you’ve never danced before. And listen with more compassion than you ever knew you had — because so many of us are in pain,” says Gia Drew of Equality Maine, who spoke at the event.

Credit Caroline Losneck / MPBN
The steps of Portland City Hall Monday night.

Samma Abdurraqib told the crowd that she’s a person of color, and a “queer Muslim about town.”

“I know that queer people of color are feeling this violence in a particularly acute way, perhaps on more than one level. There’s the first violent act that took the lives of so many Latinos and Latinas who were gathered to celebrate their lives and their loves at Pulse. But then there’s the second act of erasure, when we see this crucial piece of information that people of color were targeted by this violence. We see that crucial piece of information being omitted and being neglected,” she says.

More than 150 people turned out for a candlelight vigil at the First Universalist Church in Auburn Monday night, where the names of the victims of the Orlando shootings were each read aloud.

Credit Susan Sharon / MPBN
The Orlando vigil in Auburn Monday.

Rev. Dr. Jody Hayashida says the gathering outside the church was a time to share rage and affirm love — rage at the kind of violence that continues to tear apart the country, and in particular the LGBT community, and love for those lost and for one another.

“May we find tonight the strength to turn away from hatred,” she says. “May we find tonight the strength to turn away from fear. May we find tonight the strength to turn toward love.”

Several of the mourners in attendance carried rainbow flags and posters in support of diversity. Stephanie Hughes of Auburn said she’s normally a private person, but says she and her partner felt they had to come out to recognize the victims and their families.

Credit Susan Sharon / MPBN
Stephanie Hughes (left) and Bets Mallette

“You know, being lesbians and just thinking that tragedies happen overseas. It’s like you feel for them and you feel it. But this just felt so close to home. My father lives in Florida and it’s like, oh my goodness. My heart just goes out to the families and the people that were victims,” she says.

The Portland vigil was organized by EqualityMaine and other groups. Pride Portland organizers say all of the Pride events will go on as planned this week.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.