Chicago Reacts to Deadly Nightclub Shooting in Orlando

Chicagoans gathered at vigils and banded together to honor the victims and cope with the tragedy

In the wake of the country's deadliest mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando early Sunday, Chicagoans gathered at vigils and banded together to honor the victims and cope with the tragedy. 

Workers hung black bunting at Sidetrack in Boystown, where co-owner Art Johnston said he was "going back and forth from anger to sorrow."

"Our hearts go out to the families and loved ones of the people who were hurt and assassinated in Orlando, but our grief is more than doubled by our anger," said Johnston, who is a long-time gay rights activist.

A gunman opened fire early Sunday morning at Pulse Orlando, a popular gay dance club, killing 50 people and leaving 53 more wounded, police said. 

Juan Casado just recently moved to Chicago from Orlando, and has visited Pulse nightclub on several occasions. 

"I found out this morning when I had about 20 missed calls from my mother and she's like, 'I just needed to hear your voice,'" Casado said. 

"If I didn't move here, who knows? It was gay days in Orlando so I could have been one of those there," he added.

Hundreds of Chicagoans gathered at two emotional vigils Sunday evening, one in Boystown and one in Andersonville. 

"In a month where we celebrate how far we've come and how far our civil rights have advanced, to have this stark reminder of the hatred in our country and in our world, is shocking," Jim Bennett, of Lambda Legal, said at Midsommarfest in Andersonville.

"We mourn the victims of the shooting in the Orlando nightclub Pulse, a popular gay venue," Equality Illinois said in a statement. "Our hearts go out to the Orlando LGBT community and the family and friends of the victims, and we wish a speedy recovery to the injured."

The Center on Halsted, an LGBTQ community center located at 3656 N Halsted St in the city's Lake View neighborhood, is also hosting a vigil Monday at 7 p.m.

“Our community is no stranger to hate and discrimination, but time and time again we have prevailed,” CEO Modesto Tico Valle said in a statement. “We have been guided by love and now again we will prove that love wins.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement called the shooting a "horrifying act of terrorism" that was "an attack on our most fundamental values as Americans."

"On behalf of the City of Chicago, Amy and I send our deepest condolences to the friends and family members of those who were lost," Emanuel said. "June is a time when all Chicagoans and all Americans proudly celebrate the contributions of our LGBT community. This horrendous violence will only deepen our resolve to continue building a society that values everyone, regardless of who they love. The thoughts and prayers of Chicago will remain with the victims of this attack as they seek comfort and courage in the days ahead."

The Chicago Police Department offered technical, manpower or resource assistance to Orlando law enforcement.

"As we learn about another reprehensible act of gun violence, CPD extends our deepest condolences to those affected by the horrible tragedy in #Orlando," CPD said in a statement on Facebook. "Our thoughts and support also go out to our partners at the FBI and Orlando Police for their great work managing such a tragic and difficult incident."

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