Oxford University shows solidarity with Orlando victims

OUSU's LBGTQ Campaign are to hold a vigil Wednesday evening at the Radcliffe Camera

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A vigil in solidarity with the victims of the shooting at a gay club in Orlando will be held outside the Radcliffe Camera on Wednesday, whilst a number of colleges fly rainbow flags after the massacre.

OUSU’s LGBTQ Campaign have organised a vigil at 8.30pm in order “to remember the lives of victims” and to “mourn the violence that seeks to destroy our community”.

49 people were killed at Pulse nightclub in an act of terrorism in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The gunman, Omar Mateen, pledged his alliance to ISIS during the shootout.

There will be trained peer supporters at the vigil, followed by a welfare event where LGBTQ people will have a chance to discuss the attack in a safe space.

OUSU’s LQBTQ officer Catherine Kelly told Cherwell, “We’re holding a vigil on evening at 8:30pm outside the Radcliffe Camera because we felt it was important to honour and remember the victims of the attack in Orlando, most of whom were queer people of colour. We also want to give the LGBTQ+ community in Oxford a space to grieve- it has been incredibly hard for all of us to watch violence destroy the spaces we build. We will pass out candles, and read out the names of the victims. Everyone is welcome to attend the vigil, but we’re asking people to respect the welfare event in Wadham as an LGBTQ-only space.”

The event description also specifies that “there is no space at this vigil for Islamophobia or racism” and “we will stand together and support one another as we have always done in times of crisis”.

A number of colleges have decided to fly their rainbow flags in solidarity with the victims including Balliol, Somerville and Hertford. Christ Church and Pembroke have also both chosen to fly their flags at half-mast.

Ele Saltmarsh, LGBTQ Officer at Balliol, told Cherwell, “After news of the attack came, I was trapped in that little bubble of anger, and fear, and sadness, trading revision time for tears. The silent cry started somewhere else, and our people took it up, turning their sorrow into solidarity. By the time I looked at what was happening outside of my little world, there were people everywhere; organising vigils, singing on Cornmarket, raising a flag.”

“Each of us individually has been affected, and the community was left reeling in the wake of such a violent, repulsive blow. But it’s come back, stronger and full of love, looking out for each and every one of us. There’s been no space left for Islamophobia, for homophobia, for hate.”

“All I can tell you about the decision to fly the rainbow flag at Balliol was that it wasn’t much of a decision, more an unanimous agreement to let the world know that we were here, still full of love.”

Chloe Funnell, LGBTQ rep at Somerville, commented, “I decided to fly the flag because, firstly, at Somerville we have a large and diverse LGBTQ+ community, and I know it has affected some of us. Secondly, I think it’s important that the LGBTQ+ community, as well as allies, show their solidarity and respect after events like these. In doing so, we can demonstrate to others that we, as a community, will not be silent in the face of such hateful behaviour.”

In addition to these displays of solidarity, students united against anti-homosexual preachers who were speaking about the attacks on Cornmarket Street on Monday.

Approximately 100 counter-protesters gradually gathered around the preachers.

Draped in rainbow flags, they sung and held up banners that read “Love is Love” and “Love conquers hate”.

Jack Schofield, a second year at Christchurch, said, “Yesterday I heard that US ‘Christian’ hate preachers had chosen the aftermath of this attack to speak out about ‘morals’ and ‘sin’ in our city centre, I thought it only right to go and join the crowd that had already gathered in countering their message, and I’m sure the vigil organised for tomorrow evening will be very poignant and moving as our university and city show our solidarity with those affected.”

“The news from Orlando was absolutely devastating and my heart goes out to the LGBTQ community of Orlando, their families, friends and the city as they try to heal, as well as for Muslims, who are likely to face a backlash for this tragedy. The attack, the largest killing of gay people in the West since the Holocaust, reminds all LGBTQ of the challenges we still face and the prejudice, which remains so pervasive and must be called out.”

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