August 22, 2019
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Orlando remembers the 49 dead in Pulse nightclub shooting on 3rd anniversary

Miami, USA, Jun 12 (efe-epa).- The city of Orlando, Florida, Wednesday, paid tribute to the 49 people who were killed in the shooting at the gay nightclub Pulse three years ago, as politicians and citizens showed unity in their rejection of hate crimes against the LGBTQ community.

During an emotional bilingual ceremony held at the Pulse Interim Memorial, where the nightclub is situated and which will remain as a permanent museum, some 2,000 people gathered to remember the dead, the survivors and their families.

"In Orlando, we will continue to choose to define our community by what unites us. We will continue to embody what it means to be One Orlando, a city where the work of overcoming the challenges that confront us begins from a place of love, unity and respect," Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said in a statement released Wednesday.

"We will never forget them," said Mayor Dyer during the event together with his Orange County counterpart Jerry Demings as both designated Jun. 12 as Orlando United Day.

On the dais, decorated with floral arrangements, photos were shown of the 49 victims of what was then the worst gun attack carried out by a single person in recent US history, until it was surpassed by the Las Vegas shooting in 2017, where 58 people died.

Mayor Dyer, who hours before made a floral offering in Colonialtown Square Park, noted the appearance of a rainbow among the clouds as people continued to chant "love always wins" throughout the ceremony, many of them dressed in rainbow T-shirts or caps, a symbol of the LGBTQ community.

"As a mother, I understand you," Puerto Rican singer and actress Melina Leon said on stage shortly before performing the song "Iluminas mi vida" (You light up my life) in English, addressing the families of those killed, who were mostly of Puerto Rican origin, on a night when the club was hosting a Latin party.

Towards the end of the event the names of all 49 killed were read out.

The gunman, Afghan-born American Omar Mateen, was shot dead by law enforcement that same night.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (Rep.) created controversy after signing a proclamation on Tuesday in which he ordered flags to be flown at half-mast to mark the third anniversary, but failed to mention the LGBTQ or the Hispanic community in the text.

He was criticized by Democrat lawmakers such as Anna Eskamani, in whose constituency the club is located and who demanded an apology.

As a result DeSantis put out a tweet Wednesday saying "Today @FLCaseyDeSantis and I joined the LGBTQ and Hispanic communities in Orlando to pay our respects as our state and nation mourn and honor the precious lives that were lost three years ago at Pulse Nightclub."

After blaming his team for the omission, his office issued a new corrected version which said that the "state of Florida will not tolerate hatred towards the LGBTQ and Hispanic communities and we will stand boldly with Orlando and central Florida community against terrorism and hate."

lce/sp/uw/ses

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