Hundreds gathered at Harvey Milk Plaza in the Castro to honor the victims of the shooting in Orlando. Photo by Joe Rivano Barros.

More than a thousand people rallied in the Castro District and marched to City Hall on Sunday night in honor of the victims in the mass shooting at a gay dance club in Orlando, the deadliest in United States history.

Supervisors Scott Wiener and David Campos — the two queer supervisors in San Francisco — introduced a dozen speakers at Harvey Milk Plaza at 18th and Castro. Campos singled out the Latino community and said the Florida rampage was particularly difficult to bear as a gay Latino.

The dance club targeted in Orlando, Florida, called itself “Orlando’s Latin Hotspot” and was hosting a weekly Latin dance night when the shooting happened.

“As a gay Latino man it is not shocking to me that the worst mass shooting in the history of this country would target the queer community,” Campos said. “And it’s not shocking to me that it’s not just the queer community that’s being targeted, but it’s also the Latino community.”

The shooter in Orlando — 29-year-old Omar Mateen, an American citizen and Florida resident — killed 50 people and wounded another 53 in the early morning hours of Sunday. He was shot and killed by police when they stormed the nightclub, Pulse, at 5 a.m.

On Sunday at 8 p.m., hundreds of people lined Castro Street, holding up small candles in plastic cups and waving rainbow flags in front of the iconic Castro Theater. Speakers stood on the beds of two trucks and spoke to the crowd through mics, as police guarded the edges of the massive assembly.

Campos said his “queer Latino brothers and sisters” asked him to ensure that the Latino community was not forgotten after the shooting, and he invited a handful of leaders in that community to speak to the hundreds-strong crowd.

But the first speaker had a salty start, saying he and others were not invited to be at the vigil initially and had to request that they be able to speak.

“We’re here because we asked to be here, not because we were invited,” said Lito Sandoval, president of the Latino Democratic Club, to a silent crowd. Changing gears, he then echoed Campos’s call to remember the queer Latino community “whether in the Mission or in the Castro or SoMa” and said he was glad to be in front of the assembled crowd.

“I love my Latino people, viva la jotería,” he added, using a slang term for queer Latinos. “Live freely, love freely, be free.”

Another speaker said there was a “deep hurt in the hearts” of the Latino community and called on allies for support in the aftermath of the shooting.

“In this moment we need everyone to support us, to lift us up, because sí se puede, sí se puede,” he shouted in Spanish in a call-and-response.

A crowd chant of “Where’s the mayor?” began from the back and grew louder and louder until Mayor Ed Lee himself took the stage and attempted to address the crowd — only to be immediately booed.

“We’re here in unity, we’re here in unity, so we can stop this violence,” he started, attempting to speak over the oppositional crowd.

After hearing speakers for about an hour, the crowd began marching down Market Street towards City Hall, breaking out into shouts of “Queer lives matter!” as a vanguard of flag bearers led the way.

On the City Hall steps, the crowd sang “We shall overcome” and listened to a speaker who said he knew one of the victims in the shooting and had yet to hear from others he knew in the area.

“I still have three friends that I haven’t heard from,” he said. “I hope they’re in a hospital, but if not I know they’re in a better place.”

Speakers then began reading a list of the known dead, saying “We remember” after each name.

“Juan Romano Guerrero,” a speaker read.

“We remember,” the crowd answered.

“Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo.”

“We remember.”

“Kimberly Morris.”

“We remember.”

Flag bearers lead the march to City Hall after a vigil in the Castro for the shooting victims in Orlando. Photo by Joe Rivano Barros.

Join the Conversation

1 Comment

  1. Perhaps “Featured” is an inaccurate headline; if you have to invite yourself, you weren’t really “featured,” were you? The Latinx/a/o community is owed an apology.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *