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Far From 'Powerless,' Chicago Will Stand Up To Hate With Orlando, Rahm Says

By  Ariel Cheung and Evan F.  Moore | June 13, 2016 6:23pm | Updated on June 15, 2016 10:52am

 Mayor Rahm Emanuel, writer Fawzia Mirza and several Chicago aldermen joined hundreds at the Center on Halsted, which hosted a vigil Monday to honor victims of the shooting at Orlando Pulse night club early Sunday.
Politicians and Poets Speak Out At Center On Halsted #WeAreOrlando Vigil
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BOYSTOWN — Mayor Rahm Emanuel acknowledged that the horrors of the deadliest shooting in American history "may leave you speechless."

"But," he continued, "it does not leave you powerless."

Emanuel joined members of the LGBT community during a vigil Monday evening at the Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted St., in Boystown.

The mayor called on "the city of big shoulders, the city of big hearts" to stand with the Hispanic and gay communities struck by the mass shooting at Pulse night club in Orlando.

"When there is hate, we of the City of Chicago bring love," Emanuel said. "Where there is intolerance, we show compassion. And where there is fear, we in the city stand for hope."

For the gunman to select a Latin music night for his attack made for "a double hate crime on both Latinos and LGBT," said Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th). Officials estimate 90 percent of the Orlando victims are Latino, and more than half killed are of Puerto Rican origin.

(From left) Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) and Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) listen during the #WeAreOrlando vigil at the Center on Halsted. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]

"Allow me to remind you that this is not our culture, to fall prey to this hatred," Lopez said of the Latino community. "Our culture is built on ... compassion and caring, and no amount of hateful words or bigotry will ever set our community, our heritage backward."

Hundreds turned out for Boystown's second vigil honoring the 49 people slain and 53 wounded in Sunday's attack. After packing the Center on Halsted from the lobby to the rafters, dozens more assembled outside its doors, writing messages to Orlando and leaving behind tributes in memory of the victims.

Those who spoke offered words of solace and a largely positive message focused on uniting Chicagoans and supporting its marginalized communities. While the gathering was fairly subdued, emotions ran high during some points of the night, particularly from a speech by spoken-word poet Staceyann Chin.

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) reflected on the Center on Halsted's history as a place that "welcomes all without reservation," an ideal he wished for across the country.

Adam Polak (second from r.) rests his head on Forrest Marie Peters Linsell during the Center on Halsted #WeAreOrlando vigil Monday. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]

Ahead of Pride Fest this weekend and the Chicago Pride Parade June 26, community leaders called for unity against hatred. Officials are also looking to increase security at the parade, with nearly double the number of off-duty police officers on hand.

"Our community is no stranger to hate and discrimination, but time and time again we have prevailed," said Modesto Tico Valle, CEO of Center on Halsted. "We have been guided by love and now, again, we will prove that love wins."

Politicians and community activists joined clergy and artists in speaking out Monday. Chicago writer and actress Fawzia Mirza said it was time for her Muslim family to support its gay members.

"Let us transcend the noise, the intents of other groups and politicians who want to use this tragedy for their own agendas," Mirza said. "Those people want to divide us and to make us turn on each other instead of embracing each other."

Members of Chicago's LGBTQ community lit candles to honor victims of the Orlando Pulse night club shooting. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]

And while the shooter may have singled out an LGBT bar frequented by Latinos, "his motive was to harm Americans," said Toni Preckwinkle, president of the Cook County Board.

"But those who contemplate future attacks should know that the violence they perpetrate only deepens our resolve to fight the hatred and intolerance terrorism represents," she said.

Hundreds gathered in Boystown Sunday in a massive outpouring of grief to honor the victims of the deadliest shooting in modern American history.

Speakers Sunday included Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson and "RuPaul's Drag Race" contestant Jade Sotomayor, who lost a cousin in the attack.

"I cannot even understand why this would happen," Sotomayor said of his cousin's death. "This man was amazing. Everything he did, he had a smile on his face."

Across the city and the county, vigils are taking place following the massacre. Southsiders For Peace said it would "stand up against this awful act of hate and against racism" during a vigil in Beverly.

Northeastern Illinois University invites the public to join its students, faculty and staff in Village Square at noon Tuesday to remember the 49 victims.

Next week, The Field Museum will raise money for families affected by the shooting with a Pride Event at Sidetrack, 3349 N. Halsted St. The museum will donate proceeds from "Out In The Field: Slushies And Science," which will explore sexual behavior in nature — including same-sex relationships among penguins.

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