Local political and religious leaders are reacting with horror and sadness to the June 12 massacre of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., committed by a killer who reportedly cited the ISIS terrorist organization.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed was among those expressing “unwavering support” for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and noting that June is LGBT pride month. In Dunwoody, members of the Masjid Uthman mosque said in a statement they are “sickened and heartbroken by the horrific shooting” and denounced it as violating the holy book the Quran.
“The Muslim community joins our fellow Americans in repudiating anyone or any group that would claim to justify or excuse such an appalling act of violence…As devout Muslims, our community will, God willing, continue its efforts to combat extremism and encourage tolerance of all people,” the mosque’s statement said.
Buckhead’s Church of the Apostles and Dunwoody’s St. Luke’s Presbyterian Church said on Facebook they are offering prayers for the attack victims. Holy Innocents’ Episcopal Church in Sandy Springs said its doors are open to anyone wanting to “pray and remember,” and the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta is holding a vigil and remembrance service tonight, June 13, at 7 p.m. at All Saints’ church in Downtown Atlanta.
Another vigil, organized by various civil rights and religious organizations, is slated for June 14, 7 p.m., at Atlanta’s National Center for Civil and Human Rights. It will focus on the attack targeting a gay club on its “Latino Night.”
In Atlanta, Reed and gay City Councilmember Alex Wan, who represents part of Buckhead, joined a Midtown vigil the night of the Orlando attack. “Remembering the victims but celebrating our community,” Wan said in social media posts. “Love conquers hate.”
“The city of Atlanta shares in your grief today and stands shoulder to shoulder with the city of Orlando and with every American city which has had to endure such unspeakable acts of violence and terrorism,” Reed said in a written statement, adding that during LGBT pride month, “I am saddened that moments of joy have been turned to tears of grief, anger and sorrow by this act of hate.”
Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul, in a written statement, reflected on “300 young people in Orlando who were planning an evening of being together with friends and acquaintances. No one expected that before the night had ended, one-third of them would be casualties in a horrific night of terror. Please keep the victims and their families of this tragic event in your thoughts and pray for the injured as they strive to recover from their physical and emotional wounds.”
The city of Sandy Springs and City Councilmember Gabriel Sterling posted “Prayers for Orlando” images on social media. City Councilmember Andy Bauman contrasted the attack with that night’s Tony Awards, writing that “Broadway theatre is quintessentially American, diverse and tolerant. While our thoughts and prayers are with all who have suffered in Orlando and earlier this week in Tel Aviv, we should never be deterred in our resolve to defeat terror, hate and intolerance. Freedom will always prevail.”
Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst said in a written statement, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the city of Orlando, the victims of this terrible tragedy, and their families and friends. We also keep the public safety responders in our thoughts as well. As always, we urge our citizens to remain vigilant and report anything suspicious they may see or hear.”
The Dunwoody Police Department said its force was “deeply saddened by the senseless loss of life” and urged residents to read about its “See Something, Say Something” effort to report signs of possible terrorism and mass murders. “These tragic events affect us all, and it is hard to even find words to explain the grief we feel,” the police department wrote.
The Atlanta Police Department, which has two LGBT community liaisons, also expressed its sympathy with Orlando on its Facebook page with a photo of the city seal set against the backdrop of a rainbow flag. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and families of the tragic shooting in Orlando, Florida,” the department said.
A Brookhaven Police Department spokesperson said it is prepared for a mass shooting and will hold a class open to the public in August for people wanting to know how to react to a mass shooter.
“Maybe if the general public knows this can happen anywhere people will want to come to the class,” said Officer Carlos Nino.
Numerous nightclubs, including LGBT clubs, line Buford Highway in Brookhaven. Nino said no specific measures have been taken to beef up security at those clubs because off-duty officers already provide security.
“Most establishments usually have at least one officer or sometimes two officers working security,” Nino said. “We’re not necessarily staffing with more officers but are officers are made aware that this could happen here, maybe a copycat.”
Nightclub managers are also encouraged to hire extra off-duty officers if they feel it is necessary, Nino said. However, no requests have yet been made.
Congressmen John Lewis and Tom Price issued statements condemning the attack and supporting the victims, though Lewis focused on tighter “assault weapon” controls and Price on more anti-terrorism funding.
“Now more than ever, America must show resolve and leadership both in our words and our actions to fight back against those who seek to disrupt the cause of freedom and to destroy lives,” Price said. “We must remain unwavering in our commitment to fight radical Islamic terrorism both at home and abroad by providing our first responders and our troops with the resources and tools they need to protect our nation and citizens.”
“The people of the 5th Congressional District of Georgia send their most profound and heartfelt prayers to the people of Orlando,” said Lewis. “We lift up the victims, their families and the LGBTQ community of Orlando. We pray they will all be rocked and soothed in the protective arms of unconditional divine love in the difficult and dark days of healing that lie ahead.”
State Rep. Taylor Bennett (D-Brookhaven), who has a gay mom, posted on his Twitter feed on June 14:
— Taylor Bennett (@BennettForGA) June 15, 2016
Dyana Bagby contributed to this story.