The Pride Center of Vermont is organizing a Monday vigil in Burlington response to the mass shootings at a gay nightclub early Sunday morning in Orlando, Florida. Vermonters are also planning vigils in Montpelier Monday evening and in Middlebury on Tuesday.
"June 12 will be forever etched in our communities' history as a day of extraordinary grief," said the Pride Center’s director, Kim Fountain, in a statement released Sunday.
The shootings in Orlando are “a painful reminder of the hate and bias that confuse still today in our home communities,” Fountain added.
Fountain said as the news broke condolences and messages of support poured in via phone calls, texts, and emails.
“It is incredibly comforting to know that so many people out there are pulling together locally in support of LGBTQ Vermonters as well as for Orlando," Fountain said.
The vigil will begin at 6 p.m. Monday evening. Participants will gather near the First Unitarian Church in Burlington and march down Church Street to City Hall Park. It’s part of a larger effort that includes community centers around the country.
In Montpelier, a vigil is scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday at the Vermont statehouse. The Middlebury Area Clergy Association is also planning a vigil in Middlebury on Tuesday at the Green in Middlebury at 9 p.m.
In Rutland, the Grace Congregational Church is inviting the public to take part in a candlelight vigil on the green at the corner of West Street and North Main Street from 7:30 to 8:30 Monday evening in memory of the victims in Orlando. Organizers ask that participants bring a candle for the vigil.
Another vigil is planned for 6 p.m. Monday at the post office in Brattleboro.
The Unitarian Church in Montpelier held a vigil at noon on Monday. An attendee said on Facebook that the church bell rang 50 times - once for each person who died during the attack in Orlando.
Fountain said she expects a large turnout at the Burlington vigil.
“We have almost 900 people who have said they are going to tonight’s event, and they are people both from the LGBTQ community and from our allied community so I think that Vermont is a unique place in how small we are and how well we know one another. So when we come together you can really feel the bond between people,” Fountain told VPR this morning.
“I really hope there is going to be change. I hope that there’s going to be change in banning assault rifles. I hope that there’s going to be change in thinking that two men kissing should not be an act of bravery that incites homicidal rage. I hope there’s a change where we can come together and find peace.”
It is the second vigil organized by the Pride Center of Vermont in just the past week. Last week members of the LGBTQ community gathered to remember Amos Beede, a transgender man who died of injuries sustained in a May 23 attack in Burlington.
“We’re still reeling from Amos Beede’s murder and this happened during Pride Month, it’s a time to celebrate our right to live and love openly,” Fountain said.
Update 8:30 a.m. 6/13/2016 This story was updated to include comments and audio from an interview with Kim Fountain.
Update 1:22 p.m. 6/13/2016 This story was updated to include information about other vigils in Vermont.
Update 1:35 p.m. 6/13/2016 This story was updated to include information about the vigil in Rutland.
Update 2:28 p.m. 6/13/2016 This story was updated to include information about the vigil in Brattleboro.