In response to the mass shooting in Orlando early Sunday morning, students chalked a vigil on the Diag in remembrance of the victims.
Omar Mateen — who has claimed allegiance to ISIS — killed 50 and wounded 53 after opening fire on a crowd at the gay nightclub Pulse at about 2 a.m. Sunday. Mateen was killed three hours later when police raided the club after he held dozens of people hostage.
This shooting resulted in the most deaths from a mass shooting in U.S. history. The previous largest shooting in the United States was the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech, which ended in the killing of 32 people.
In his remarks to the nation, President Barack Obama noted the relatively relaxed gun control laws in the United States.
“This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub,” he said. “And we have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be. And to actively do nothing is a decision as well.”
In an email to students, vice-president of student life E. Royster Harper issued her condolences to the familes of the victims and called for students to lean on one another in their own individual communities.
“We must continue to stand against violence and stand together as members of communities, as allies and as people affected directly or indirectly by this senseless act of violence,” she wrote. “We are, of course, all affected by this tragedy, often in different ways. We know that many members of our own community share the multiple identities with those directly impacted by these events, and it can make things particularly difficult for us to learn, to study and to care for others.”
An unidentified group of students chalked the Diag in rainbow colors with the words “Michigan stands with Orlando” and “In memory of our friends in Orlando” Sunday after news of the shooting broke.
In an interview with the Daily, Will Sherry, director of the Spectrum Center, said they will be hosting an open center for students Monday and Tuesday for those who wish for community in this time of tragedy.
“We are a space that seeks to create a safe environment where LGBTQ students can thrive, he said. “We are having our space open for people to come and reflect.”
Jeffery Noble and Danny Clergy, two University of Michigan alumni who were relighting vigil candles set up next to the chalking, said they had also attended a vigil at Aut Bar. The vigil featured speakers from several community members, Jim Toy, founder of the Spectrum Center and Jim Toy Community Center and Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor; State Rep. Adam Zemke (D- Ann Arbor) was also in attendence.
In his remarks Taylor emphasized the need to use this act of violence as a pathway towards fighting extremism and hatred in a broader sense.
“What do we do with this?” he asked. “We live our lives with a renewed commitment to speak out against and defeat the notion that a gun-riddled America is a safer America; to speak out against and defeat violent extremism; and to speak out against and defeat rank bigotry in all its forms.”
Sherry said the Spectrum Center had a presence at the vigil in order to pay their respects and offer support.
“We were there to be with one another and reflect on the sadness of lives lost and to give our condolences to the families of the victims,” Sherry said.
Noble said he feels the need to raise awareness of the need for societal acceptance and tolerance so that it can be a starting point for change.
“I feel that this is the most we can do,” he said. “I mean, we want to do more, but the only way we can help is through publicity and getting the word out so that this is a cause of change in society.”
The shooting has sparked renewed discussions of gun safety and hate crimes against members of the LGBTQ community.
In his speech, Obama called for solidarity with the LGBTQ community.
“This is an especially heartbreaking day for all our friends — our fellow Americans — who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender,” Obama said. “The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub — it is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds and to advocate for their civil rights. So this is a sobering reminder that attacks on any American — regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation — is an attack on all of us and on the fundamental values of equality and dignity that define us as a country.”