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50,000 attend Orlando vigils: ‘We will conquer that hate with love’

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ORLANDO — Orlando came out en masse on Sunday to mourn and honor the dead from the Pulse nightclub shooting.

Hundreds of worshipers in the Cathedral Church of St. Luke heard the bell toll once for each of the 49 people killed in the gay nightclub. The names and ages of the victims were read aloud.

Afterwards, some of the worshipers left the Episcopal service to walk to another vigil at a nearby park, where some estimates put the crowd at 50,000.

For the organizers, the supporters and the attendees, the two vigils signified how much a city had come together in a week-long public protest of Omar Mateen’s mass murder.

Kermit Silva, Chelsea Frost and Chris Nault decided on an impromptu public gathering at Lake Eola Park near downtown Orlando. Silva was convinced it would be a small affair when he sent the invitation by Facebook, promising to bring 100 candles.

He was a few short. Orlando Police initially estimated the crowd at 37,000. But Visit Orlando later estimated it to be 50,000.

“I just wanted to get the community together and show that we were one Orlando,” Silva said. “I didn’t think it would be very eventful at all.”

The city realized it had to come together and make a statement of support, said Frost to explain the overwhelming crowd.

“It was the LBGTQ and Hispanic community that was targeted, and it was hateful and it was public,” she told CNN. “And I think it has to be public for the rest of the community to stand up and say, ‘We’re not OK with it, and we’re going to get behind them and provide them with the support and strength they need. We love them so we will conquer that hate with love.'”

The lakeside gathering culminated a week of vigils and outpourings of support from around the nation and the world for the victims.

Meanwhile, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that the FBI would release transcripts of Mateen’s phone conversations with police during the night of the shooting, but said the audio recordings would not be released.

“He talked about his pledge of allegiance to a terrorist group,” Lynch told CNN. “He talked about his motivations for why he was claiming, at that time, he was committing this horrific act. He talked about American policy in some ways. The reason why we’re going to limit these transcripts is to avoid revictimizing those who went through this horror.”

As of Sunday, another patient left the Orlando Regional Medical Center, joining 16 others who have been released. Eighteen of the wounded remain in the hospital — four in critical condition and two in guarded condition.

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