LGBT Atlanta is planning two vigils on Sunday and a third gathering to show their support for the victims of a mass shooting in Orlando, while Mayor Kasim Reed assured gay residents that places that serve them will remain safe.
The statement from Reed came as authorities in Orlando continue to deal with the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. A heavily armed Omar Saddiqui Mateen, 29, is accused of storming Pulse, a gay nightclub in downtown Orlando, early Sunday and killing 50 people and injuring 53 others.
Mayor Kasim Reed expressed his condolences for the attack in Orlando, and reaffirmed his support for LGBT Atlanta residents "who are mourning their brothers and sisters in Orlando."
"I offer my deepest condolences and my prayers to the victims of last night’s shooting in Orlando, and to their loved ones. The City of Atlanta shares in your grief today and stands shoulder to shoulder with the City of Orlando and with every American city, which has had to endure such unspeakable acts of violence and terrorism," Reed said in a statement issued Sunday afternoon.
"I also wish to express my unwavering support for our city’s LGBT residents, who are mourning their brothers and sisters in Orlando. June is a special month for the LGBT community, filled with celebrations and fellowship. I am saddened that moments of joy have been turned to tears of grief, anger and sorrow by this act of hate," Reed added.
The mayor also stressed that his administration's top goal is safety – for all Atlantans.
"I want to reaffirm my administration’s commitment to taking every precaution to ensure the safety and security of the City of Atlanta, particularly at establishments that serve our LGBT community," Reed said.
"My administration's number one priority remains the safety of all of Atlanta's residents and visitors. This will never waver. All people, no matter their race, gender, religion or sexual orientation, have the right to safety and security," Reed added.
Atlanta City Council member Alex Wan also expressed sadness over the attack.
"I am completely heartbroken over the senseless and tragic attack on our brothers and sisters in the LGBT community in Orlando this morning. My thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of those affected by this horrific incident," Wan said in a prepared statement.
"I know that the LGBT community, our family and friends will come together to comfort and support each other as we absorb this devastating news. May we all come through it stronger and more united than before," Wan added.
LGBT Atlanta is also responding, planning two vigils for Sunday evening and a community gathering on Tuesday. The first – Blessing and Vigil for the Orlando Shooting Victims – is being organized by the Atlanta Sisters. It's scheduled for 7 p.m. in the parking lot of Burkhart's and other gay bars in Midtown.
Please join us in the parking lot outside the Ansley Bars as we pay tribute to those that were lost last night in the Orlando nightclub mass shooting and as we send positive energy, thoughts, and prayers for recovery into the universe for those injured.
We will have candles, but given the number of those in attendance we may run out. If you have a candle of any kind (taper, pillar, flameless) it would be great to bring it to share your light!
A second event – Candlelight Vigil for Orlando – is planned for 8:45 p.m. at the intersection of 10th Street and Piedmont Avenue. It's the same intersection where gay Atlanta celebrated last June when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized marriage and where hundreds of LGBT people rallied in 2013 when the high court struck down a federal marriage ban.
Let's meet in TEN's parking lot at sunset (8:45pm) and stand in solidarity with our brothers & sisters in Orlando.
Please bring any candles that you have, even if they are in little glass jars. Whatever you have. We will light up the night.
What makes us different makes us beautiful. We need to stand strong in the face of terror and show them they can't take away our pride. Bring your rainbow flags too!
A third event is also being planned by 15 to 20 LGBT and progressive organizations, according to Jeff Graham, Georgia Equality's executive director. The community gathering will explore some of the broader issues raised in the wake of the Orlando shooting, Graham said.
The event – We Are Orlando: Vigil and Community Gathering – is scheduled for Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Center for Civil & Human Rights. Additional details are expected to be announced on Monday.
UPDATE | The Atlanta Police Department said in a statement it will increase partrols around LGBT businesses and restaurants in the wake of the massacre.
The Atlanta Police Department mourns with the family and friends of those killed in the Orlando club shooting.
We will have increased patrols around clubs, restaurants community centers, and places of worship popular with the LGBT community. We are also aware of the vigils planned for this evening and will monitor those events.
We continue to work with our federal partners to monitor any threats in the Atlanta area. There are no credible threats at this time.
In addition, we will also be setting up additional active shooter trainings so that our citizens and visitors feel prepared if they are ever faced with a situation similar to the one in Orlando.
Again our prayers are with all of those affected by this tragedy and pray for the first responders in Orlando.