MORE than 600 Scots gathered at a mass vigil last night to pay their respects to the victims of the Orlando nightclub shootings which left 49 clubbers dead and 53 injured.

Gay rights campaigners, activists and supporters joined together in grief at George Square in Glasgow to express their shock and disgust at the horror attack on the Pulse LGBTI nightclub.

Gunman Omar Mateen, who allegedly harboured hatred for gay people, killed and wounded over 100 people in the deadliest mass shooting in recent US history before he was shot dead by police.

The Glasgow Stands With Pulse Orlando vigil was held in George Square and hosted by local group Free Pride. A similar event will be held in St Andrew’s Square in Edinburgh tomorrow evening. 

A lone piper played while hundreds of men, women and children joined city dignitaries to light candles and lay yellow flowers on rainbow flags as they thought of those who had lost their lives.

Two uniformed police officers received applause from the crowd as they too knelt to light a candle with heads bowed.

One local woman, Alice McLean had brought her two daughters to the vigil. She said: “We just wanted to show that we were united against this awful shooting.”

John Davidson, also from Glasgow said he was not surprised to see so many people in the city showing their support for the people of Orlando.

“Glasgow always steps up to the mark when it comes to showing support for our fellow men, women and children,” he said.

Tim Hopkins, director of Scottish LGBTI charity the Equality Network, said “care and thoughts” were with the victims and their families.

He added: “It is impossible for us to imagine the horror of the attack, or the devastation to lives it has and will continue to cause.

“Whatever may emerge about any connection between the killer and organised terrorism, it is clear that a large part of the motive for this attack was homophobic hate.”

Free Pride said it was devastated by the mass shooting and expressed sympathy to victims’ families and friends.

A spokesman said: “The vigil was a chance for us to mourn with our community.

“This attack is a reflection of the violence LGBTQ people face daily, not just in the US but across the world, and this violence feels personal for many of us.”

Glasgow City Council Lord Provost Sade Docherty, who was at the George Square vigil, said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by the terrible atrocity.”

SNP MP for Glasgow South, Stewart McDonald, has asked for a minute’s silence to be held in the House of Commons to remember the victims.

He tweeted: “I’ve written to the Speaker’s office to ask that parliament be given the opportunity of a one minute silence this week following Orlando.”

Angela Crawley MP, the SNP spokesperson on equalities, who is herself gay, has tabled an Early Day Motion co-sponsored by SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson, condemning the attacks and recognising that, “We all have a responsibility to challenge the culture of homophobia and transphobia that exists in society in all its forms”.

A vigil was also held outside Westminster, organised by SNP MP John Nicolson and Labour’s Chris Bryant, with MPs and parliamentary staff being addressed by Speaker John Bercow. 

Crawley said: “This act of extreme hatred is a stark reminder of the prejudice and discrimination that LGBTI people continue to face and of how much remains to be done to secure full equality.”

Nicolson added: “We have made such enormous strides in much of the Western world in tackling anti gay discrimination that we sometimes forget how far we still have to go.”

Jordan Daly: The best way to remember those who lost their lives is to acknowledge who they were

PHONES were ringing in the pockets of dead bodies this weekend, as people tried to contact their loved ones amidst breaking news of a shooting at an Orlando gay bar. That’s how one witness described the scene: the indelible sound of various ringtones buzzing simultaneously on the dance floor – calls that would, ultimately, never be answered.

The heartbreaking massacre at Pulse nightclub will inevitably be used as an evidential tool to further various ideologies and political stances (which may often act in contradiction to each other), but that is to be expected. What has been particularly disappointing, for me at least, is the blatant attempt by several media outlets and social commentators to misconstrue this incident and rewrite it’s narrative into one which does not place the LGBTI community – that is, the victims – at the centre, where they belong.

The most blatant example of this was during Sunday night’s Sky News Press Preview, which featured Guardian columnist Owen Jones and radio presenter Julia Hartley-Brewer. When Jones described the attacks as “one of the worst atrocities committed against LGBTI people in the Western world for generations” (which I wholeheartedly agree with), the conversation descended into a flustered debacle which culminated in Jones walking off of the set following comments from Hartley-Brewer that he did not have “ownership on the horror of this crime” because he was gay. Rather, both Hartley-Brewer and host Mark Longhurst argued, this was an attack on all human beings – that is, this was not targeted at a single community, but rather an assault on the freedom to enjoy oneself in a nightclub.

To argue that this was an attack on all of humanity, while attempting to abjectly erase the LGBTI community from the discussion, is akin to declaring that “all lives matter” when presented with the realities of systematic injustice against black Americans. While I certainly understand that we live in a society which continually fails to acknowledge the layers of sociocultural privilege that it has bred and perpetuates, I refuse to remain silent when faced with a rapidly emerging trajectory which is turning this incident into something that it was not.

Let’s also be clear on one thing – there is no binary in whether this was homophobia or terrorism. In this case, the two are not mutually exclusive and should not be treated as such. This was both.

Omar Mateen, clearly, had a problem with the LGBTI community and that is irrefutable. According to his father, Mateen “got very angry” when he witnessed two men kissing. Fast forward – he walks into a nightclub with a name that denotes life, and starts killing.

To even question whether this attack was homophobic is pitiable – unlike most ideologically driven attacks that occur in the West, this was discriminatory with the lives that it claimed. Mateen cared about who his victims were. He chose them because of their identity.

We must be careful that we do not rewrite the narrative here; that we do not forego vital parts of this story when we speak of the atrocity at Pulse nightclub with future generations. Because, on June 11, 2016, the LGBTI community came under attack from a twisted ideologue – and the best way to remember those who lost their lives at his hands is to acknowledge who they were.

This editing process is not only apparent in the media, however, but also in the sudden outpouring of grief from notoriously anti-LGBTI politicos – who, unsurprisingly, have glossed over the fact that the victims they are “thinking of” were patrons of a gay bar and have instead chosen to compartmentalise the incident to suit their own agenda by focusing on Mateen’s alleged links to Daesh.

Alas, we reach a deeper conversation. For Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and their ilk to sombrely declare that their prayers are with the victims and their families is astoundingly benighted considering that these individuals have spent their political careers spouting their poisonous, anti-LGBTI opinions to anyone who will listen.

If you would consider yourself to be cut from the same cloth as Rubio and Cruz; that is, if you seek to regulate access to restrooms for transgender individuals, if you oppose marriage equality, if you believe that being LGBTI is a lifestyle choice and that those of us who engage in same-sex relations are on a one way trip to hell – then you can keep your condolences, because your dogma is the very reason that 49 people are dead and a further 53 are injured.

Until we can overturn the belief that LGBTI people are immoral, unnatural, deficient or perverse – we will not move beyond these episodes of targeted hate – and, so, we have to start having serious conversations about how we approach such views. For as long as we allow bigotry to prevail under the guise of free speech or religiosity, then “equality” will stumble on as a rhetorical buzzword and not a lived experience.

The truth is that social justice will never claim victory if we continue to dismiss, whitewash or blatantly ignore the existence of marginalised communities and their experiences. 

This is why coverage is important – this is why we must be true to the reality of the Pulse shootings, this is why we must acknowledge that this was an act of terrorism driven, at it’s core, by one man’s ideological hatred of the LGBTI community.

Jordan Daly is a co-founder of Tie campaign, which seeks LGBTI+ inclusion in all schools.

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