San Diego community addresses Orlando shooting

Posted at 12:54 PM, Jun 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-12 23:41:31-04

Community leaders across San Diego County Sunday condemned the mass killings at a Florida nightspot, lowering flags to half-staff and planning two vigils for tonight.

Law enforcement officials increased security throughout the region in the wake of the massacre at an Orlando, Fla., gay club.

"San Diego stands united with the people of Orlando," San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said on Twitter. "Our sincere condolences to the families affected by this horrible act of violence."

San Diego City Councilman Todd Gloria, who is openly gay, represents Hillcrest, the hub of San Diego's gay community.

"Since early this morning I have been in communication with the mayor's office, San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman, and local leaders in our LGBT community to make certain that we are doing all we can to ensure public safety locally," Gloria said. "We will protect our residents as we stand in solidarity with people across the nation mourning last night's tragic events."

Members of the San Diego congressional delegation also reacted.

"Please join me in praying for the families, victims and those affected," tweeted Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista. "Grateful for law enforcement and first responders who put their own lives at risk to aid the victims and
bring the attack to an end. We must be resolute in our efforts to find and stop those who plan and commit these unacceptable acts of violence and terror."

Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, the first lesbian speaker of the California Assembly, sent out a prepared statement.

"As we await further information about what compelled a man to murder so many innocent people in Florida, we grieve for the lives lost and send our love to the victims' families and friends, the people of Orlando, and the
city's LGBTQ community," Atkins said.

"Our community has had to overcome much fear, bigotry, and violence over the years and decades. We are strong, and our power to rise above will get us through this tragedy. We feel this deeply, around the world, as one community, and we hold Orlando in our loving embrace," she said.

Rep. Juan Vargas, D-San Diego, echoed Atkins' sentiments.

"My heart and prayers go out to the victims and families of this horrific attack. I stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ community" Vargas tweeted.

The San Diego Human Dignity Foundation issued a statement from Board President Joselyn Harris.

"It is absolutely devastating to even comprehend the horror our brothers and sister endured inside the venue," Harris said. "The act in Orlando was one of domestic terrorism. Acts like these continue to underscore
the importance of advocating for a tolerant and inclusive community. The LGBT community and its allies cannot give up the fight for equality and safety," she said.

The North County LGBTQ Resource Center in Oceanside released a statement on its Facebook page.

"Violence will not intimidate us from living our authentic lives, or prevent us from loving one another," the statement said. "We must come together as a nation to affirm the love that conquers hate."

A candlelight vigil was scheduled for 7 p.m. today in Hillcrest at the pride flag, on the corner of University Avenue and Normal Street. The giant rainbow-colored flag had already been lowered to half staff before President Barack Obama issued the order to lower flags later today. A makeshift memorial of flowers, candles and well-wishes at the base of the flag was growing throughout the day.

"Bring candles, signs, and lots of love. Sending thoughts and prayers to our Family in Orlando," the Facebook invitation read. "Homophobia and transphobia need to be stopped more than ever."

Another vigil was scheduled for 7 p.m. today at the North County LGBTQ Center in Oceanside.

A candlelight vigil and rally also was being planned for Monday evening at the San Diego LGBT Community Center in Hillcrest beginning at 6:30p.m.

Bill Pavlacka, also know as The Sandcastle man, sculpted a tribute to the victims on a beach in Coronado with the message reading, "Orlando we love you! America and the world must stand strong against terrorism."

A photo of the castle was making the rounds on Twitter.

The San Diego Blood Bank said it has not been requested to contribute to the shooting victims, but stands ready to help if asked, a spokeswoman said.