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Across U.S., vigils held for Orlando shooting victims

ORLANDO -- Across the United States, people are gathering at vigils honoring the victims of a shooting attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando that left 50 people dead and 53 wounded.

From North Carolina to New York, from Connecticut to Texas, Americans held vigils for the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting.

In Miami Beach, mourners lit candles, embraced and waived rainbow flags Sunday evening.

Members of LGBT groups and their supporters met in the Boystown neighborhood of Chicago. Among them was Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, who said the city has stepped up security in gay communities. Also there in solidarity were mothers who have lost their children to gun violence.

Hundreds of people in Austin, Texas, attended an evening vigil at the Capitol that included Muslim leaders and a Christian pastor, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

New Yorkers gathered in Manhattan at a historic bar to grieve, flocking to the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village Sunday evening.

As CBS New York reported, the crowd grew by the hundreds over a period of three hours. People laid flowers, sang, and made speeches, and while everyone was devastated, the message that rang out was what the LGBT has been saying for decades -- love will overcome.

"This is a place where the community comes to celebrate, and it's a place where the community comes to mourn," said Stonewall Inn owner Stacy Lentz.

One poet laid 50 flowers in front of the historic tavern at 53 Christopher St. -- one for each victim.

"Here we are once again rallying together," said Anthony Coda Lopez. "It is a sad, sad state of affairs."

As the NYPD Counterterrorism Task Force guarded the block, many in the LGBT community said they deal with threats of violence every day.

"The story of violence against LGBT gay people is something that's going on all around the world," one attendee said.

But there was just no room for hate outside the Stonewall Sunday night.

"It's about love," said Brian Worth. "It's not about us versus them. It's not about hate."

It was especially painful that the massacre happened at a nightclub. For many, gay bars and clubs are a safe haven, free from hate.

The attack on the Pulse nightclub, the deadliest U.S. mass shooting to date, occurred amid numerous events nationwide celebrating LGBT Pride Month. In several other cities hosting events on Sunday -- including block parties in Boston and a festival in Washington -- authorities beefed up the police presence.

"You see something like this -- you know, a gay massacre, in this day in age, is unfathomable," said Todd Fernandez.

"This is a Stonewall moment," said Gilbert Baker, creator of the rainbow LGBT flag. "We're going to rise up."

Mirna Haidar, who is both Muslim and gender nonconforming, said the events Sunday bring a particular struggle.

"Struggling with being who you are in both identities in this country, where you're meant to be safe but you're actually not safe," Haidar said.

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Many chose strength over fear. One man attended the vigil in a T-shirt reading, "I am not afraid, I am Pulse," referring to the Orlando nightclub where the massacre happened.

"I'm not afraid, because when people do things like this to our community, it's to keep us in fear, and it's to make sure that we don't feel safe, and I'm not -- I'm going to let them know they can do whatever they want to me, but I'm not going to stand down," Worth said.

"Of course I'm scared," said Ann Alessi. "But hate's never going to stop me. I'll be there."

Another vigil attendee, Cameron Cano, stood proudly with a rainbow flag draped over her shoulders.

"This is where the LGBT rights movement started, and I think the Stonewall represents hope," she said.

Cano was visiting from Florida, and said the Pulse nightclub is one of the known spots amongst her friends.

"They're always like in the clubs, and this is one of the ones that they always hit up," she said.

Several hundred people filled the parking lot of a popular LGBT-district bistro in downtown Atlanta, singing, lighting candles and speaking out against the violence that struck Orlando. Matt Garrett helped organize the event, handing out candles and lining up a series of speakers who would address the swelling crowd that spilled into the busy street.

Vigils weren't just held in the U.S.

About 100 people gathered in Paris for a spontaneous vigil at Place Igor Stravinsky to remember those slain and wounded at the Orlando nightclub.

Several people were draped in rainbow flags. They lit candles and took pictures as a person in head-to-toe fetish gear held up a sign saying "Proud."

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One woman carried a poster showing a ribbon with a rainbow on one side and an American flag on the other. "To Orlando, we have love," it read.

Ian Brossat, the capital's deputy mayor for housing, was at the vigil. He says it seems important to mobilize to voice solidarity and to underline the fight against homophobia.

Remi Perrenoud, 30, said the news hit him particularly hard because, like the victims, he had been out partying at a gay club Saturday night.

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