Hundreds of mourners gathered Monday night at the Boone County Courthouse in Columbia to honor those killed Sunday in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. A gunman opened fire at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 people and injuring more than 50 others.
Rev. Sarah Klaassen of Rock Bridge Christian Church in Columbia said she wants other faith leaders to support those in the LGBTQ, Latino and Muslim communities and all those who experience hatred or threat. She says her congregation stands against bigotry.
“We are aware of the ways that abuse and hatred toward those of us who are lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and queer continues even here in this community,” said Klaassen.
After prayers and opening remarks, members of multiple congregations from Columbia and advocacy groups from the University of Missouri read the names of the victims.
Speaker Tiff Melecio pointed out that a large number of the names were Latino, because the massacre happened at Pulse Nightclub’s Latin Night.
“This mass shooting has a lot of layers,” Melecio said. “Yes it was our community, the LGBTQ community, but it was also another one of my communities, the Latino community, the people of color community. As much as it is awesome there’s so many people here today, who are you here for?”
Organizer James Roark-Gruender spoke after Melecio, calling the dialogue between her and hecklers who interrupted her speech “uncomfortable.”
“We may not all agree on everything, but we agree we are all discriminated against, some more than others,” Roark-Gruender said. “I absolutely as a white privileged man admit that… Have a conversation with the person next to you; I guarantee you’ll never get this many diverse people in one room or atmosphere at one location. So please take advantage of that and talk to each other. Sometimes difficult things in life are uncomfortable.”
Vigils to honor the Orlando victims have also been held this week in St. Louis and Kansas City. Joplin will also have one at 8:30 p.m. Thursday in Landreth Park and Springfield is organizing a vigil for Friday at 7 p.m. at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of the Ozarks.
Brad Tregnago of KSSZ contributed to this story.