This story was originally published on Refinery29's U.K. site.
Thousands of people gathered on Old Compton Street in Soho last night to honor the 49 people who lost their lives on Sunday morning in the biggest mass shooting in U.S. history.
At 7 p.m., the sound of a single whistle pierced the tension, and silence fell across the crowd, which spanned the entirety of the street. Wild cheers, applause, and streams of tears followed the silence as a rainbow of balloons were released into the sky, one for each fatality of the Orlando nightclub shooting. The sound of the London Gay Men’s Chorus echoed off the houses with their rendition of “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”
“I have never been a rainbow kind of lesbian,” one friend said through tears, “but right now I feel like part of that rainbow.” It is incredibly infrequent that so many people who fall under the umbrella of LGBTQ have cause, and a space, to congregate like this. In a community that experiences so much continued oppression and can feel so fractured, last night’s vigil felt like a moment of unity.
When a space of sanctuary like Pulse is attacked and invaded, it is up to the LGBTQ community to come out in force and recreate our own sanctuary, and on Monday night, that is what London did in a global act of solidarity with Orlando.
Click through for photographs from the vigil, and reactions from the crowd.