Hundreds of people came together in Loring Park in Minneapolis on Sunday night to stand in solidarity with victims of the early-morning attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando.
They were there for one another, too — members of the local LGBT community and their allies, among them Gov. Mark Dayton and Jaylani Hussein, executive director of the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Dayton, looking at a hillside filled with people, said: “Love will triumph over hate.”
Sunday’s attack was being investigated as an act of terrorism, with the gunman allegedly calling 911 and pledging allegiance to ISIL. But Minnesota Muslims condemned the mass shooting, and on Sunday night, the talk was only of unity. At one point, two political candidates — one Muslim and the other self-described as “queer” — symbolically clasped and raised their hands.
As the speeches wound down, the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Chorus sang, “Walk hand in hand with me / This is our destiny,” while on the hillside, people held candles. Despite the wind, the flames still flickered.
A moment of silence
What was planned as a joyous event to celebrate LGBT pride in a Twin Cities suburb turned somber Sunday afternoon. The Golden Valley Pride festival, which ran from noon to 4 p.m. at Brookview Park, began with a moment of silence for the victims of the shooting.
The event, which drew about 2,000, featured an interfaith service, family events, music and speeches, including one by Golden Valley Mayor Shep Harris.
Twin Cities Pride security
The Twin Cities will host one of the nation’s biggest Pride celebrations June 25-26, with a festival in Loring Park, Pride night at the St. Paul Saints stadium in St. Paul, a parade on Hennepin Avenue and bars packed with locals and visitors.
Dot Belstler, executive director of Twin Cities Pride, said most security measures at the parade and festival have been behind the scenes and not visible to attendees. This year, it’s likely to be different.
She said organizers are working with the Minneapolis Police Department and the Minneapolis Park Police to identify additional security measures.
“We want everybody to come and be able to celebrate and be safe,” she said. “We’ll probably have more visible security.”
Belstler said a to-be-announced event will honor the Orlando victims during Pride weekend.
She was at Golden Valley Pride on Sunday, where fun and celebration mixed with solemn reflection.
“It’s Pride; people are going to come together and celebrate, while holding those victims in their hearts.”
From the governor
Dayton issued the following statement on the attack:
“The horrific act of hatred and terror in Orlando was an unfathomable attack upon all of humanity. Our hearts go out to the innocent victims of that heinous assault.” Dayton ordered all flags in the state to fly at half-staff until sunset Thursday.
Dayton also directed the Department of Transportation to light the Interstate 35W bridge over the Mississippi River near downtown Minneapolis with the colors of the rainbow through Thursday night.
Reached by phone Sunday, Jibril Afyare, spokesman for the Somali-American Task Force and president of the Somali-American Citizens League, said, “I am saddened and shocked by the senseless killing, and condemn in the strongest possible terms any acts of terror and extremism and homophobia in the U.S.”
Gay bar shootings here
Minneapolis has seen shootings at or near gay bars. In 2014, there were two.
In September of that year, Wayne Odegard, a self-described conservative Christian, was walking outside the Saloon, a popular gay club at Hennepin Avenue and 9th Street in downtown Minneapolis, when he saw two men kissing.
He uttered a homophobic slur, then pulled out his BB gun, shooting two men in the legs.
Odegard was later charged with felony terroristic threats and was sentenced to six months in the workhouse.
In October 2014, Devon Strouss shot two people at the 19 Bar near Loring Park. According to news reports, he was drunk when he arrived at the bar and became aggressive when he was asked to leave. He pulled a gun and fired several shots into the bar, hitting the manager and a customer.
He was sentenced to six years in prison in connection with that attack and a stabbing at a St. Louis Park gas station.
Staff writers Pat Pheifer and Karen Zamora contributed to this report.