Pennsylvanians react with vigils, fundraisers and security concerns.
Early Sunday morning, a gunman opened fire in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fl. Omar Mateen killed 49 clubgoers and injured at least as many in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Mateen was killed at the scene after a prolonged hostage situation.
There were tributes offered across the country, from the White House to the Tony Awards. Over 1,000 miles north of Orlando, Pennsylvania residents reacted to the news with vigils, fundraisers and security concerns.
The parade must go on
Pittsburgh city officials are holding a candlelight vigil Monday night to honor the victims. But the city already had an occasion for people to come together on Sunday — the annual Pride Parade.
Pittsburgh hosts the largest LGBT pride event in the state, drawing over 100,000 people. This Sunday was no different, though the revelry was interrupted by a 50 second moment of silence for those killed in Orlando.
“The day was beautiful, the crowd was joyful, I couldn’t have asked for a better day,” said Christine Bryan, the director of marketing for the Delta Foundation, which organizes the event. “People were definitely thinking about Orlando, but we were celebrating the LGBT community just as much.”
Bryan said it was an opportunity for people to stand in solidarity with Orlando, rather than staying home out of fear. But the Delta Foundation worked closely with Pittsburgh city officials to make sure everyone was safe.
“This is a post-9/11, post-Boston marathon [bombing] world we live in, so there’s lots of [security] already in place,” said Bryan. “I can tell you that city, county and state officials were monitoring the situation and reacting appropriately.”
That meant extra police presence, among other things. The city is hosting a Stanley Cup parade Wednesday for the Pittsburgh Penguins. The police department declined to answer questions about security plans for that event.
Harrisburg is taking extra precautions as they prepare for the Central Pennsylvania Pride Festival in July. Officials plan to add extra security, though Brad Martin, president of the festival organization, said they are used to these concerns.
“We always have protestors, every year some of them gather to protest our event,” said Martin. “We have always had a very, very, very in-depth security plan, but you know, like we’ve said, you can’t be over-prepared.”
Martin plans to work with Harrisburg city police, capitol police and state police to ensure proper protocols are in place.
“Some people have asked if we plan to cancel the event this year,” he said. “That’s not even an option. Or, if it is an option, it’s not something we’re going to do.”
The shooting in Orlando led the local news Monday morning in Pennsylvania. The Allentown Morning Call covered a vigil hosted by local LGBT groups, where Mayor Ed Pawlowski called gun violence an “epidemic” in America.
GoErie.com reported the city’s connection to the crime: the club where the shooting took place is co-owned by an Erie native. And the York Daily Record mourned victims of gun violence both in Florida and closer to home in York Country.
Senator Bob Casey has taken this opportunity to reveal national gun legislation he has been working on for some time now. It would prevent people who have hate crime convictions on their records from buying firearms. Casey announced the legislation today in Pittsburgh after meeting with members of the city’s LGBT community.
Governor Wolf has ordered United States and Pennsylvania flags lowered to half-staff.