GREENWICH VILLAGE — Hundreds of New Yorkers gathered outside Stonewall Inn on Sunday night to remember the victims of a massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
With rainbow flags fluttering in the wind, people wept, hugged one another and lay flowers on the sidewalk to honor the 49 dead and 53 injured in Sunday morning's slaughter, the worst mass shooting in American history.
Morgan Conroy, 25, said the fact that the shooter targeted a nightclub meant he was hitting the LGBT community where they have historically congregated.
"For LGBT people, we gather in nightclubs, that's where we've always come together," Conroy said. "To target that is to target our soul."
Others in the crowd sang "We Shall Overcome" and made political statements in the "people's mic" made popular by Occupy Wall Street.
One man encouraged his fellow members of the LGBT community to not let the attack force them to live in fear, particularly during June, which is when Pride Week occurs in cities around the world.
"For the next two weeks before pride I want you to wear gay stuff," he said. "Show them we're not afraid, because we are not afraid."
"For the next two weeks wear stuff. Show them we're not afraid. Because we are not afraid." pic.twitter.com/OeEjIlDQR3— Noah Hurowitz (@NoahHurowitz) June 12, 2016
Inside the inn, which was recently designated the city's first LGBT landmark for its role in launching the modern gay-rights movement, people danced and drank, creating a defiantly festive atmosphere.
The gunman, Omar Mateen, 29, stormed into the Pulse nightclub in Orlando just after 2 a.m. on Sunday, opening fire with an AR-15-style assault rifle and a handgun, authorities told reporters in Florida. Mateen was killed by authorities.
According to news reports, Mateen called 911 just before the attack and proclaimed his allegiance to the Islamic State, but authorities were still looking into whether he had any substantive ties to the group or was simply inspired by its calls for lone-wolf attacks in the West.