Orlando Strong: Thousands Gather at Vigil for Slain Victims

An estimated 50,000 people attended the vigil.

ByBRIAN MCBRIDE
June 20, 2016, 4:56 AM

— -- An estimated 50,000 people attended a candlelight vigil Sunday night to remember the 49 people killed in Orlando last week, event organizers said.

What was initially intended to be a small gathering turned into a massive turnout as tens of thousands of people arrived at Lake Eola, located in the heart of downtown Orlando, Sunday evening.

PHOTO: Tens of thousands of people attend a Pulse nightclub shooting vigil by Lake Eola in Orlando, June 19, 2016.
People attend a Pulse nightclub shooting vigil by Lake Eola in Orlando, June 19, 2016. Tens of thousands of people in central Florida held up candles around the lake in the heart of downtown Orlando as the names were recited of each of the victims who died from the Pulse massacre just a week ago.
Red Huber/AP

Orlando's Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and several other elected officials were on hand to give remarks.

The vigil concluded with people in the crowd holding candles as the names of the 49 Pulse nightclub victims were read.

PHOTO: Supporters of the victims of the recent mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub attend a vigil at Lake Eola Park, June 19, 2016, Orlando, Florida. Tens of thousands of people attended the vigil.
Supporters of the victims of the recent mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub attend a vigil at Lake Eola Park, June 19, 2016, Orlando, Florida. Tens of thousands of people attended the vigil.
AP

Jacobs told the crowd that enough is enough when it comes to hate and violence.

"Together we will drive out the darkness," Jacobs said during the rally. "We will drive it out with kindness and compassion."

"This is the moment in time when hearts are opened and minds are changed forever. And this is the moment when love will prevail," Jacobs added.

Before the vigil began, a rainbow appeared in the sky, and gatherers were eager to share the occurrence on social media.

An emotional tribute was held Saturday evening as thousands filled the Camping World Stadium for a soccer match between Orlando City and the San Jose Earthquakes at the Camping World Stadium in Orlando.

Through social media, fans were able to coordinate T-shirt colors by sections to turn the stadium into a rainbow in support of the LGBT community.

PHOTO: Some of the fans for the Orlando City SC wave rainbow flags before the start of an MLS match between Orlando City and the San Jose Earthquakes at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, June 18, 2016.
Some of the fans for the Orlando City SC wave rainbow flags before the start of an MLS match between Orlando City and the San Jose Earthquakes at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, June 18, 2016.
Jacob Langston/AP

Thousands had also gathered to mourn the death of Christopher Andrew Leinonen on Saturday, who was killed last weekend during the Pulse nightclub massacre.

In a powerful symbol of love, roughly 200 people formed a human chain on the the main street of downtown Orlando outside St. James Catholic Cathedral.

PHOTO: Counter demonstrators show support and solidarity near the funeral service for Christopher Andrew Leinonen, one of the victims of the Pulse nightclub mass shooting, outside the Cathedral Church of St. Luke, Saturday, June 18, 2016, in Orlando.
Counter demonstrators show support and solidarity near the funeral service for Christopher Andrew Leinonen, one of the victims of the Pulse nightclub mass shooting, outside the Cathedral Church of St. Luke, Saturday, June 18, 2016, in Orlando.
John Raoux/AP

A group of "guardian angels," dressed in large wings, attended the event to protect the mourners from protesters from Westboro Baptist Church.

PHOTO: Counter demonstrators dressed as angels to show support and solidarity block the view of protesters near the funeral service for Christopher Andrew Leinonen, June 18, 2016, in Orlando -- one of the victims of the Pulse nightclub mass shooting.
Counter demonstrators dressed as angels to show support and solidarity block the view of protesters near the funeral service for Christopher Andrew Leinonen, one of the victims of the Pulse nightclub mass shooting, outside the Cathedral Church of St. Luke, June 18, 2016, in Orlando, Florida.
John Raoux/AP

Orlando police said the Westboro protesters had left the state with no plans to return.

Equality Florida Institute says it has raised nearly $6 million for victims' families and survivors, most of it coming from a GoFundMe campaign that has drawn more than 110,000 worldwide contributors.

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