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Tacoma vigil planned to remember victims of mass shooting in Orlando

WATCH: Tacoma LGBT community leaders discuss Orlando nightclub massacre

Seth Kirby, executive director for the Oasis Youth Center, and Michelle Douglas, executive director of the Rainbow Center, share their thoughts Sunday about the Orlando, Florida, nightclub shooting.
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Seth Kirby, executive director for the Oasis Youth Center, and Michelle Douglas, executive director of the Rainbow Center, share their thoughts Sunday about the Orlando, Florida, nightclub shooting.

Community groups have organized a candlelight vigil for 8 p.m. Sunday at Tacoma’s Tollefson Plaza to remember the 50 people killed in a mass shooting at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida, earlier in the morning.

Organizers of the event urge attendees to bring candles and lighters.

“We are stronger together than we are individually,” said Michelle Douglas, the executive director of the Rainbow Center in Tacoma. “In times of sadness, it is important to come together.”

Capital City Pride is planning a vigil at 7 p.m. Sunday at Sylvester Park, 615 Washington St. SE, Olympia, to remember those who lost their lives in the shooting, in which officials said a gunman killed at least 50 people and wounded about 53 more.

Douglas said the attack came during a Latino-themed night at Pulse, the Orlando nightclub, during Gay Days there.

“We’ve taken what was a night of joy in Orlando and turned it into an act of terror,” said Douglas, who identifies as queer.

Seth Kirby, the executive director of the Oasis Youth Center in Tacoma, and Douglas said the attack feels connected to the increase of anti-LGBT bills, initiatives and laws proposed throughout the country.

The two were part of a planned meeting Sunday afternoon to strategize against Initiative 1515, a proposed restriction on bathroom access for transgender people, which became instead about the shooting.

“When Michelle and I found out about the shooting, we turned our focus to ‘How can we get our community together?’” said Kirby, who is a transgender person.

President Barack Obama said the FBI is investigating the massacre, the largest mass shooting in American history, as an act of terrorism.

The gunman, identified by the FBI as Omar Mateen, 29, is believed to have been inspired to do the attack by the Islamic State terrorist group.

Rai Nauman Mumtaz, 28, a Muslim who grew up in Tacoma and lives in Federal Way, condemned the act, and asked that people come together instead of be divided by difficult conversations.

“From a non-Muslim perspective, it’s difficult to have a conversation,” Mumtaz said. “From the Muslim perspective, we have to condemn the actions when all humans should condemn them.”

He said he feels lucky to live in Washington, “where we pride ourselves on religious and cultural diversity.”

As Mumtaz was driving to his home Sunday afternoon, he thought of a Koran quote that summed up his thoughts well: “Whoever kills an innocent person, it’s as if he has killed all of mankind.”

Douglas, the Rainbow Center executive director whose organization puts on Tacoma Pride Festival each year, said she will be talking with Tacoma police Monday about the event but intends to keep it as scheduled from July 8-16.

“This is our community’s time, and this is a deliberate act of violence to silence that,” Douglas said.

At 7 p.m. Monday, an interfaith community gathering will be held at Life Center church, 1717 Union Ave., Tacoma, including the Rev. Dean Curry and Temple Beth-El Rabbi Bruce Kadden, as well as state Rep. Laurie Jinkins, Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist, Tacoma City Councilwoman Victoria Woodards and former Superior Court Judge John McCarthy.

Kenny Ocker: 253-597-8627, @KennyOcker

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