N.H. mourns victims of Orlando shooting with State House vigil

  • Orlando Police officers direct family members away from a fatal shooting at Pulse Orlando nightclub in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, June 12, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

  • Ray Rivera, left, a DJ at Pulse Orlando nightclub, is consoled by a friend, outside of the Orlando Police Department after a shooting involving multiple fatalities at the nightclub, Sunday, June 12, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel via AP) MAGS OUT; NO SALES; MANDATORY CREDIT

  • Holding a candle he brought from home, John Cassidy (center) of East Concord speaks during a vigil mourning the victims of the Florida mass shooting that occurred that morning, Sunday, June 12, 2016. About 20 people gathered outside the State House in Concord for the vigil.

Published: 6/12/2016 3:29:54 PM

June is supposed to be a month of pride for members of the LGBT community.

That’s why Kae Mason knew she had to do something right here in Concord to show support for the victims of a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

“It’s kind of numbing,” said Mason, a transgender woman.  “It’s truly when things hit home like that – it’s such a special weekend for the LGBT community.”

On Sunday night, a group of about 20 people linked arms on the State House lawn, sharing stories and expressing prayers for the 50 people killed and 53 injured in Orlando hours earlier..

It was a windy night, so two participants brought battery -powered candles to light the circle.

“We don’t get to see the real world in Concord, because we are fairly progressive and we get to live in a sort of closed curtain from the rest of the world where it’s harsher and people aren’t always accepting,” said Jonathan Weinberg, 16.

H.A. Snyder and Ezra Timberlake-Alves of Canterbury described feelings of “shock and horror” when they found out the news of the shooting early Sunday morning.

Snyder said New Hampshire is “not the worst, but probably not the best” for acceptance toward LGBT groups. Snyder said it’s also important to remember that gun violence can affect anyone at any time – minority groups are not the only targets.

“The real horror of the people who do these things is it could happen anywhere,” Snyder said. “We don’t have very many clubs here, but somebody could open fire on Market Days and shoot just as many people.”

Earlier in the day, a spokeswoman from the Greater Concord Interfaith Council said Temple Beth Jacob also planned to hold a memorial prayers service Sunday evening.

The suspected shooter, 26-year-old Omar Mateen of Port St. Lucie, Fla., was killed in a firefight with police about 5 a.m. Sunday after taking hostages and shooting at clubgoers. His father has told news outlets that his son was angry after seeing two men kissing in Miami, and that may have had a role in the attack.

Mason, the owner of Salon K in Concord, said discrimination toward LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people seemed “intertwined” in the shooting.

She said of those in the Concord community, “Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of supportive people in this area.” But, she added, ignorance leads to hateful treatment of LGBT people, and that is a serious topic to be addressed that goes beyond what’s currently in the news: arguments over what bathroom a transgender person should use.

“To worry about whether a transgender girl is walking into a bathroom stall – it’s so silly,” Mason said “There’s death in the world.”

PFLAG, an LGBT allies group that has a chapter in New Hampshire, said the following in a statement about the shooting Sunday: “It tragically reminds us that our work is far from over. As ambassadors of love and hope, PFLAG members will continue to support our extended family of LGBTQ people, families, and allies through these dark, anxious moments and beyond. Let us join in unity to end violence and hatred.”

There were more than 300 people inside the club, Pulse Orlando, when Mateen began shooting with an assault-type rifle and a handgun – both of which he purchased legally – about 2 a.m. Sunday. Mateen was also found with a “suspicious device.”

Authorities have said that he called 911 and referenced the Islamic State just prior to the attack.

Whatever his motivations may have been, Mohamed Ewiess, the president of the Islamic Society of New Hampshire, said Sunday that they did not come from Islam or religion.

“This is not Islam. This is not us,” Ewiess said. This being the month of the Muslim holiday Ramadan, he added, “This is the month of forgiveness, this is the month of mercy.”

Ewiess said, “My heart is bleeding for the parents, the families and the friends.” He pointed out that after those killed and injured Sunday morning, Muslims are next in line to be victimized as a result of the terror attacks.

This is due to a false portrayal of their beliefs, said Ewiess, which in reality, preaches being good to one’s neighbors and having peace.

“The impact of the media on people is enormous – I’m sure a lot of people are hurting from this,” said Ewiess. Especially young Muslims, he said, need to be reached out to and supported.

This topic is often brought up during Friday prayers at the mosque, said Ewiess. “The speaker usually addresses this stuff and how it’s not right. What we do is help each other and say, this is not us.”

At President Obama’s request, Gov. Maggie Hassan ordered flags in New Hampshire be lowered to half-staff until Thursday. She called the shooting “an act of terror and hate” and said “we must continue fighting for inclusiveness and to ensure that all LGBT Americans can live free from fear with the full dignity, respect and safety that they deserve.”

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton said on Twitter Sunday that she was one of millions of LGBT allies and added,”We need to keep guns like the ones used last night out of the hands of terrorists or other violent criminals.”

Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, who came under criticism on social media Sunday after tweeting “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism. I don’t want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!” plans to address the incident in his speech today at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College.

(The Associated Press contributed to this story. Elodie Reed can be reached at 369-3306, ereed@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @elodie_reed.)

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