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Vigil held in Syracuse to honor Orlando shooting victims

Events celebrating LGBT pride in Syracuse this week are being overshadowed by the shooting at a gay club in Orlando. A candlelight vigil for the victims was held at Syracuse’s city hall.

Carol Burchim was one of hundreds of people who attended the vigil, where the message that was repeated again and again was that love overcomes hate.  
"I'm here because I live in this community, I'm part of the gay lesbian community," Burchim said. "I had to deal with my emotions which went from anger to fear and I won't let fear dictate my life."
A.J. Striffler, the pastor of the First English Lutheran Church in Syracuse, warned the gay community not to resort to intolerance or hate in dealing with the tragedy.
“Yes, we have heavy hearts and we grieve, but at the same time we have to be reminded that it’s about this coming together, this community that makes us strong, makes us proud, and why we continue,” Striffler said.

Credit Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News
Rainbow flag raising at Syracuse's city hall.

Earlier in the day, at a rainbow flag raising ceremony at city hall, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner’s Chief of Staff Bill Ryan said the administration stands with the gay community.

“What happened in Orlando comes at a unique intersection of time," Ryan said. "In June we observe both pride month and gun violence awareness month. Tragically, these will be inexplicably linked, forevermore.

Ryan said pride week should go on as usual.

"Nobody should have to live in fear," Ryan said. "This is a very strong community, they’ve battled many battles before. I don’t think they’re wary at all. I think by the display of numbers here today people understand that. Knowing the fact that the city of Syracuse and the administration support them and all their endeavors, I think it will be a fine week.” 

Jayme Martin of CNY Pride encouraged people to attend its annual event at Syracuse’s Inner Harbor this Saturday but warned the gay community to be cautious.

“There [are] worries," Martin said. "We do plan on having a meeting with the city this week, to go over issues on that, we just want people to be safe and come out and celebrate.”

While there are no specific threats for the region, Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler said law enforcement is leery of a copycat of the Orlando shooting.

“If it requires an additional police presence that’s exactly what’s going to happen,” Fowler said.

Fowler said everyone should keep a watchful eye out and if you see something, say something.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.