For Andrea Ochoa and her wife, the headline about a "mass shooting" Ochoa saw early Sunday morning was a sad but increasingly normal occurrence. But for this particular shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub, which left least 49 people dead and injured 53 others, the couples' emotions ran high.
"My heart sank," Ochoa said. "It was a tough day [Sunday] … it felt personal."
She and her wife were among the many people who flocked to LA City Hall Monday evening where there was a rally and vigil put on by the Los Angeles LGBT Center. The Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles (GMLA) began the program with the song "True Colors," and the crowd filled the spaces and lawns flanking the City Hall steps carrying candles, rainbow flags and signs declaring solidarity with the Orlando victims.
"We gather tonight in grief at the senseless massacre of LGBT people, most of whom were young people of color," said Lorri L. Jean, CEO of the Los Angeles LBGT Center. "And we gather in anger … Orlando was just one in a long line of violent attacks against our community."
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The grief and anger comes almost one year after the LGBT community celebrated the Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage. Yet even in the midst of anger at a shooting that was both an act of violence against LGBT community members and people of color, community leaders made calls to rise against hate.
"We must make sure that we do not compound the tragedy by scapegoating an entire religion or ethnic group for the murderous rampage of one man," said Marshall Wong of API Equality-LA.
In addition to calling for peace and solidarity instead of hate, the speeches made by politicians, activists and clergy empowered those in the audience.
"If you think we are gonna be afraid of terrorism, you don't understand that we've been terrorized from the school ground playground, from the very beginning of our lives," said West Hollywood Council Member John Duran. "And we have fought back and we have loved one another … we have been afraid and we walked forward anyway."
The audience was further thrilled by the appearance of Lady Gaga, a longtime supporter of LGBT rights, who came to take part in reading the names of the deceased that were released so far. Gaga seemed overwhelmed with emotion as she addressed the crowd.
"I can't help but feel like this level of hatred … is an attack on humanity itself," Gaga said. "Tonight I will not let my anger and my outrage over this attack to out shadow our need to honor those who are grieving truly."
And as the names and ages of the dead were called, the crowd lifted candles and cellphone flashlights in honor, holding onto friends and family for support, especially when they heard that the youngest on the list, Akyra Monet Murray, was 18 years old.
The GMLA ended the rally with a final song, "Singing for Our Lives," and many people were in tears as the crowd sang along.
The rally was stirring for Ochoa, who went to the rally with a rainbow flag that read, "We are not afraid."
"I felt a lot of unity," Ochoa said. "We're still willing to go out in public, they're not gonna scare us out of going out at night, out of going out in public, out of going out in big places … we're all together in this, they can't kill love."
And that sentiment was echoed by Jean as she gave the crowd a parting message: "Love wins."