Hundreds of South Africans gather to remember Orlando victims

Centurion (Pic: Marius Redelinghuys)

Centurion (Pic: Marius Redelinghuys)

Hundreds of LGBTI South Africans and their friends gathered in Cape Town, Pretoria, Durban and Bloemfontein to honour the victims of the Orlando massacre.

In Centurion on Thursday, in the parking lot of the popular Babylon nightclub, a large crowd solemnly lit candles in the colours of the rainbow flag.

The event was attended by the DA mayoral candidate for Tshwane, Solly Msimanga, as well as the Deputy Ambassador of the US Embassy.

Msimanga quoted the first three verses of the Nina Simone song I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free, which was an anthem for the civil rights movement in America in the 1960s.

Villa Rosa actor Jacques Pepler, who came out as gay in response to the massacre, also spoke about how the incident had affected him.

According to GaySA Radio, a few gay Muslim men attended the vigil. They said afterwards that they’d received hostile stares and were made to feel uncomfortable. They nevertheless stayed to show their support.

“I thought it was a very emotional event that went a long way to bringing the community back together again,” said Hendrik Baird, GaySA Radio Station Manager. “The one sadness for me is that it was almost an all white affair,” he said.

Cape Town (Pic: David Lee / Cape Town Pride)

Cape Town (Pic: David Lee / Cape Town Pride)

In Cape Town, a crowd of around 400 people assembled in the late afternoon in the garden of the Pride Shelter in Oranjezicht.

City Councillor Garreth Bloor addressed the crowd and spoke passionately about the devastation of Sunday’s attack, while the Rev Beulah Durrheim, from Good Hope MCC, also spoke and led a prayer for the victims.

Christopher D’Aiuto, who is from Orlando, read out the names and ages of the 49 people killed as candles were lit in their honour.

“It was highly emotionally charged,” Matthew Van As, one of the organisers of the event, told Mambaonline. “It was great to see the unity from the community, and their bravery.”

“It’s scary to think that could also happen here, just for being yourself. And to rock up and be there was actually very brave,” he said.

A vigil in Durban at Club Altitude saw over 100 people taking part, including a number of speakers from the LGBT community: Nnhlanhla Mkhize (Durban Lesbian & Gay Community & Health Centre); Kim Lithgow (Same Love Support Group Toti); Thomie Holtzhausen; and Judith Nel.

Councillor Martin Meyer highlighted the ongoing discrimination and hate crimes against LGBT people in South Africa, while Debra Nell from Deo Gloria Church said a prayer. Livashlin Naidoo represented the Hindu community.

Durban (Pic: Kim Lithgow)

Durban (Pic: Kim Lithgow)

There was minute’s silence for the fallen while images of the victims were shown on a large screen in the nightclub.

A vigil was also held at the Dutch Reformed Church Hall in Bloemfontein, on Wednesday, hosted by Mr. Mardi Gras SA, aleXander Steyn.

On Sunday, 49 people were slaughtered by 29-year-old Omar Mateen, who opened fire on hundreds of revellers inside Orlando’s Pulse gay nightclub.

He was shot by officers who stormed the venue. Around 53 people remain injured, many of whom are in a critical condition.

A Johannesburg tribute to the victims of the Orlando killings is happening at Trouble Bar (36 Knoppiesdoring Road, Rand Park Ridge) on Saturday at 8pm. Another Cape Town vigil will be held at St George’s Anglican Cathedral, in Wale Street, today, from 12 noon till 1pm.

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