Local vigil brings out emotions as Clevelanders honor Orlando shooting victims

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CLEVELAND, Ohio - A Memorial Unity Walk drew more than 100 people to Cleveland’s west side Monday night.

The LGBT Cleveland Community Center quickly organized the event in honor of those affected by the terrorist attack in Orlando after numerous calls to the center.

“Because people really want to gather and they want to stand in solidarity with Orlando,” said Phyllis Harris, Executive Director LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland.

The walk started around 7:30 p.m. at the center at 6600 Detroit Ave. and ended at nearby Labyrinth Peace Park for a short ceremony.

Participants wore white ribbons and carried pictures of the Orlando victims.

Many broke down in tears while each name was read aloud.

“We’re grieving,” said Harris, “It’s been like a roller coaster of emotions.”

Feelings of sadness and anger have been overwhelming for many people within the LGBT community but this night was all about togetherness.

“It was important for us to show solidarity and that we’re not going to be afraid,” said Jim Oltlowski. His partner John Birdsell added, “And even more importantly we’re not going to be silent.”

A number of community leaders and politicians were also on hand.

Both Cleveland Councilman Matt Zone and State Representative Nickie Antonio called on everyone to stand together with strength, pride and love.

Representatives with the Council on American Islamic Relations also pledged the support of Muslims and denounced the actions of the gunman in Florida, which is something Harris says is extremely important moving forward.

“I want them to confront folks who legitimize violence against,” said Harris.

Counseling was also made available Monday at the LGBT Center with support from Applewood Centers, Inc and FrontLine Service.

Anyone in need of help can call or stop by the center.

For more information on hours and services, click here.