Area residents came together on short notice Sunday night for a pair of Albany vigils to honor victims of the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando.
Vigils at Townsend Park and outside of Rocks gay bar, only a block away from each other along Central Avenue, drew over 100 people combined at 8 p.m. Sunday.
As gusts of wind kicked up, attendees at both vigils held candles and talked about their response to the shooting. The mood was reflective and somber, as many vigil-goers silently embraced each other while others spoke.
David Dobbs, an Albany resident, helped organize the vigil outside Rocks. At its peak, he said about 75 people were gathered outside the bar.
“It means a lot to have the support from the straight community and the gay community, to have them coming together,” he said.
Dobbs said he was happy with the turnout, given the short notice, and added that many people may have been tired from participating in Saturday’s Pride Parade and Festival. In addition to residents, he said some city aldermen were in attendance.
When the crowd cleared out, a table that was covered in candles was standing outside the bar with a rainbow flag draped across the front.
A short distance down the street at Townsend Park, about 30 people had gathered in a circle for a vigil as well. Each person held a candle as attendees took turns speaking about how the shooting in Orlando made them feel, and how they felt the violence could be addressed.
Black Lives Matter Upstate organized the Townsend Park event. Rosa Clemente, who helped put the vigil together, called the AR-15, the weapon used by the shooter in Orlando, a weapon of mass destruction.
Another woman in attendance said that tackling the problem of violence and hate starts with dialogues like the one in Townsend Park, but must extend beyond that to tackle larger problems like gun violence.
Dobbs said he believes the massacre will make everyone stronger. However, he also said he hopes the violence will stop.
“This hate has got to stop. It’s 2016,” he said. “It’s a time when acceptance has changed a lot of our lives, so just I can’t understand why this would happen in this day and age.”
Additional vigils are planned this evening in the Capital Region. One will be held in front of Schenectady City Hall at 6 p.m., and another will take place at 6 p.m. at the West Capitol Park in Albany. That vigil is being hosted by the Pride Center of the Capital Region and In Our Own Voices. There is also a vigil scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Peebles Island State Park.