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Coast LGBT community holds vigil for Orlando victims

By WESLEY MULLER

wmuller@sunherald.com

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JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALDDrew Landry-Rester of Wiggins cries as names of the victims of the mass shooting in Orlando are read during a vigil near the lighthouse in Biloxi on Monday to honor the victims.
JOHN FITZHUGH/SUN HERALDDrew Landry-Rester of Wiggins cries as names of the victims of the mass shooting in Orlando are read during a vigil near the lighthouse in Biloxi on Monday to honor the victims. SUN HERALD

BILOXI -- Dozens gathered on the beach on a rainy Monday evening to hold a candlelight vigil for the 49 lives taken and many more affected after a shooting attack at an Orlando night club.

"We will not remain silent in the face of injustice," said Errol Montgomery-Robertson, pastor of Lighthouse Community Church in Biloxi. "We shall overcome. We shall choose love, and we shall choose life."

Most who attended the vigil carried rainbow flags or wore apparel to show support for the LGBT community, which was the apparent target of Omar Mateen, the perpetrator of Saturday's attack.

Mateen reportedly pledged his allegiance to ISIS in a 911 call before he began opening fire in the club.

Mississippi Rising Coalition President Lea Campbell, who helped organize Monday's vigil, said the LGBT community is "heartbroken and shaken" over the violent loss of life in Orlando.

"The perpetrator of this expression of violent hatred wanted to instill in us fear of his violent actions," Campbell said. "But we will not be afraid. We will grow stronger if we hold onto each other through the common bonds of humanity."

Brandon Beckstein of D'Iberville, a

self-described member of the LGBT community, said the attack has been an eye-opener for him.

"It's brought a realization that this could happen to any of us, and it shows that just because you're gay doesn't mean you're shielded from any harm," Beckstein said. "You're vulnerable just like anyone else in the world is."

In his address to the nation Sunday afternoon, President Barack Obama called the massacre an act of terror, then expressed sorrow for "all our friends, our fellow Americans, who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender."

The Islamic State claimed the attack, noting the assault "targeted a nightclub for homosexuals," though authorities have not found clear evidence indicating Mateen received direction or help from jihadists abroad.

"Everyone should know that we're strong and we're always going to come together and help each other," Beckstein said.

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