A small memorial at the vigil.
A small memorial at the vigil.

News | Montréal LGBT community organizes vigil in memory of Orlando victims

Québec Premier Philippe Couillard accosted by trans activist

On Thursday June 16 at 7pm, thousands of mourners attended a candlelight vigil at the corner of Rue Sainte-Catherine Est and Rue Panet to pay their respects to those who died at the PULSE nightclub in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday June 12. Forty-nine people lost their lives, and fifty-three others were injured, in a mass shooting at the nightclub

Montreal LGBT Solidarity

The vigil was held in the heart of Montreal’s Gay Village, near Parc de l’Espoir (which translates, perhaps fittingly, to Hope Park). Attendees carried signs with the pictures of those killed, which read “Trans Lives Matter,” “Black LGBT Lives Matter,” and “Latino LGBT Lives Matter,” highlighting the homophobic nature of the shooting, and the fact that most who died were gay men and women of color.

“Let us put an end to hate, and demand to live in a world without weapons and violence!”

“Let us put an end to racism, sexism, homophobia, lesbophobia, biphobia and transphobia!” said Éric Pinault, President of Fierté Montreal, in French. “Let us put an end to hate, and demand to live in a world without weapons and violence! And above all else, let us open our hearts to the love and to the light surrounding us as to sow peace [in our communities]!”

“I would like to remind everybody that every microaggression, every homophobic, transphobic, or racist act contributed to the events of last Sunday,” said Marlyne Michel, co-president of Arc-en-ciel d’Afrique, in French, stressing that what happened in Orlando was horrific, but calling for the press to put equal emphasis on the daily hardships faced by LGBT communities.

Manon Massé, the Québec provincial MP for Sainte-Marie – Saint-Jacques, herself a self-identified gay woman and activist, was also present at the vigil. She linked the violence in Orlando to attacks against marginalized communities around the world, and spoke to the necessity of fighting intolerance and hate.

“I would like to remind everybody that every microaggression, every homophobic, transphobic, or racist act contributed to the events of last Sunday.”

The names of all 49 victims were read near the end of the vigil, while onlookers held candles.

Québec Premier Philippe Couillard accosted

Québec Premier Philippe Couillard, Montréal Mayor Denis Coderre, and Minister of Canadian Heritage Mélanie Joly, as well as other federal and provincial MPs, attended the vigil. Days before the vigil, event organizers intentionally stressed that it was intended to be a “non-partisan gathering where all may honour the memory of the victims, reflect on the tragedy and stand united against homophobia, racism and sexism.”

“Tonight is not about politics.”

This didn’t stop several mourners from booing when one spokesperson from Fierté Montréal thanked many provincial and federal politicians for being present at the vigil. “Tonight is not about politics,” the spokesperson responded.

Coderre, Joly, and Couillard all spoke at the vigil, in solidarity with Fierté Montréal and LGBT communities around the globe.

Coderre emphasized the pride he felt at his constituents’ response to the Orlando shooting. “Here [in Montréal], you can live however you choose to, no matter who you are,” he said in French. “If you’re LGBT, that doesn’t matter, because you’re a citizen. You’re a first-class citizen.”

“We love each other the way we are. Let’s be proud of that and preserve that identity,” said Couillard, also speaking French.

“If you’re LGBT, that doesn’t matter, because you’re a citizen. You’re a first-class citizen.”

Both Coderre and Couillard were booed when taking the microphone – particularly Couillard, whose Liberal government has been unpopular due to its implementation of austerity measures. Many have argued that austerity has disproportionately affected institutions that help marginalized communities, such as those who identify as LGBT.

An event organizer responded to the booing by saying in French, “In 1960, what is happening here would not have been possible: a premier, a mayor, a multitude of deputies coming here [to stand in solidarity with LGBT communities].”

“We love each other the way we are. Let’s be proud of that and preserve that identity.”

But the crowd was astonished when Couillard was accosted on stage by Esteban Torres near the end of the vigil. Couillard and Joly were quickly escorted off stage, away from the crowd, while Torres was carried away by the police. He was later charged with assault, according to The Huffington Post Canada.

Torres, who had shouted “Révolution!” before attempting to hit Couillard, had earlier identified himself as a “trans, queer and Latinx activist”, and had been another of the event’s speakers, speaking on behalf of the Pink Bloc.

His speech had denounced islamophobia, misogyny, racism, homophobia and transphobia. While speaking in Spanish, he also condemned colonialism in many Latin American countries.

After some initial disorder, the vigil ended after a rendition of “Somewhere over the Rainbow”.


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