Illinois Reacts To The Orlando Nightclub Shooting

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson speaks with members of LGBT groups and their supporters at a vigil in the city's Lakeview neighborhood on Sunday.

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson speaks with members of LGBT groups and their supporters at a vigil in the city's Lakeview neighborhood on Sunday, June 12. Johnson said the city has stepped up security in gay communities following the shooting attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

Teresa Crawford / AP

Saying that the state of Illinois stands with those in Florida, Governor Bruce Rauner has called for flags to be flown at half-staff, after the shooting inside an Orlando, Florida gay nightclub left 49 people dead and 53 injured.

The governor has called on Illinoisans to join him and his wife Diana in praying for all those affected by the shooting.

“It was heartbreaking to learn about the tragic massacre in Orlando, Florida”, wrote Rauner in a message on his Twitter feed. “To target a community in celebration is deplorable.”

Chicago gay rights activists held a vigil to honor the victims in the city’s Lakeview neighborhood Sunday night. The event attracted several hundred participants.

One of the vigil’s organizers is Dawn Valenti with the group Chicago Survivors. A lesbian, Valenti’s job is to help families in Chicago, when they have a loved one who is killed.

Speaking at the vigil, Valenti said the shooting in Orlando was like “a double punch in the stomach” for her.

“So I couldn’t sit by idle,” she said. “It’s important for me and this city and this state to send our love and our thoughts and our prayers to those families in Orlando, those families who are still looking for their loved ones.”

The shooter, Omar Mateen was killed in the incident at the Pulse nightclub early Sunday morning.  The Islamic State’s Al-Bayan Radio hailed Mateen as “one of the soldiers of the caliphate in America”.

Several Muslims joined the Sunday night vigil in Chicago. Eboo Patel from the Interfaith Youth Core told the crowd not to hate people who, like him, pray in Arabic.

“Everyone here is smart enough to know that extremists belong to only one tradition … the tradition of extremism”, said Patel.

A mosque in downstate Illinois condemned the Orlando shooting on its Facebook page. The Islamic Center of Peoria carried a statement stating that the actions of the shooter “have no place in Islam” and called for the defeat of “hatred and violence with love and respect for all human beings.”

Also downstate, the Uniting Pride, or UP Center, which serves the GLBT community in Champaign County, says it will be collecting donations for families of the Orlando shooting victims at its “Turn It Up” variety show fundraiser this Friday night at the Accord nightclub in downtown Champaign. In a statement on its Facebook page, the UP Center also encourages people to write letters of love and support to the survivors in Orlando.

Elsewhere, about 25 people gathered Sunday night at a Unitarian church in Springfield to mourn the deaths. They lit candles in honor of the victims, listened to music and shared stories at Abraham Lincoln Unitarian Universalist Congregation. Church leaders say another vigil is planned with other community groups.  

In Bloomington those at a picnic sponsored by Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays remembered the victims.

Meanwhile, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says the city won't be intimidated by the Orlando shooting.

Emanuel said in a Sunday statement that he looks forward to celebrating Chicago’s Pride Parade on June 26th. There'll also be festivities in the city next weekend.

Chicago police are increasing security, particularly in neighborhoods with gay bars and establishments. Police leaders say they're stepping up police presence "out of an abundance of caution," and not because of any information regarding any threat in Chicago.

((This article was revised to include more information about memorial observances at 8:47 AM 6/13/16))

Story source: WILL