Photo : Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaking at the vigil | Credit : Ellie Morag

On Sunday 12th June 2016 a man walked into Pulse nightclub (an LGBT+ venue) in Orlando, Florida, and murdered 49 innocent people. The mass shooting, the worst in American history, was calculated to create fear and division.

As news broke of the tragedy, the world united, with many vigils being announced around the UK for people to show their solidarity for those affected, including Cardiff, London and Manchester.

In Scotland, in the week following the shooting, vigils took place in Glasgow, Dundee, Inverness, Kirkcaldy and Stirling. Inclusive Networks organised the ‘Edinburgh stands with Orlando’, vigil that took place on the evening of 15th June 2016 in St Andrew Square.

Thomas Anderson, Founder of Inclusive Networks said: “We had to make the vigil happen to bring people together to remember and show our respects to those whose lives were taken, those injured and to send our love and thoughts to their family and friends. It was a very visible demonstration that love is a stronger force in the world than hate and love is love.”

The vigil was opened with Edinburgh-based choir Loud and Proud and the Edinburgh Gay Men’s Chorus, who sang a number of songs, including The Rose and Rise Like A Phoenix.

Louise Thomas, owner of The Street in Edinburgh – a popular venue with LGBT+ people – was the first speaker and asked that we all “stand proud”.

Speakers from Stonewall Scotland, the Equality Network and United Against Fascism then took to the platform to speak to the 1000+ people who gathered in the pouring rain. 23-year-old Tobias Wishart, from Leith, gave an emotional speech on behalf of a friend who lost someone close to them in the massacre.

Scotland’s political parties came together on the evening to show their respects and to send a strong message that Scotland stands by those affected, and there is no place for hate crime.

“I want to call what happened in Orlando for what it was – a homophobic hate crime, targeting people simply because of who they choose to love”

Those present at the vigil included First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Ruth Davidson, Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party, Kezia Dugdale, Leader of the Scottish Labour Party, and Patrick Harvie, Co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party.

At the vigil Nicola Sturgeon said: “I can’t tell you how important it is to me to be with you here this evening. The last few days have been horrific and heartbreaking beyond words but it has also been inspiring. All across the world we have watched people come together in solidarity. That is the comfort I hope you, and the LGBTI community across the world, take from these expressions of solidarity. We stand here tonight united, proudly in defiance of hate and with a very clear message – love is love.

“Tonight I want to say three things – firstly, to express my sympathy with all of those who were affected by the horror. Those lives weren’t lost, they were taken by someone motivated by hate.

“Secondly, I want to call what happened in Orlando for what it was – a homophobic hate crime, targeting people simply because of who they choose to love.

“Thirdly, I stand shoulder to shoulder with our LGBTI community now and always.

“I am really proud of the the progress we’ve made in Scotland in the last few years…the proudest moment of my career was when we passed the equal marriage act…but there is no room for complacency. Until we live in a world in which no young person feels hatred, discrimination, prejudice or fear because of their sexuality or gender identity we still have work to do. I pledge to you tonight we will continue to do that work until we live in a Scotland that is truly equal.”

Ruth Davidson said: “As a woman who moved to Edinburgh to be herself, I know how important LGBTI venues are for people who want to be themselves.

“We stand in Edinburgh in a place where we feel safe and stand in solidarity with people around the world.

“We will become stronger because we have stood here tonight, because we have shown those people that would conduct hate upon our community that they will not win because love wins, love always win.”

The names and ages of all 49 victims were read out by members of Scotlands LGBT+ community and a one minute silence followed. The vigil ended with both choirs coming together to sing Somewhere Over The Rainbow – with many people singing along.

Special thank you to Black Light for supplying all the AV and staging for the vigil, free of charge. Thank you to Ellie Morag for taking the photos you see in this article.