A human sea of love flooded the streets of downtown Burlington, Vermont Monday night, honoring the victims and survivors of this weekend's shooting massacre in Orlando, Florida.
A crowd the Burlington Police Dept. estimated at around 2,000 gathered for the solemn march down the Church Street Marketplace, and to attend a vigil where they heard from several city officials, advocates for the LGBTQ community, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, and religious leaders.
"It's definitely a powerful thing seeing everybody out here supporting one another, loving one another, and supporting people that they never even met before," said Tony Sawyer, who attended the demonstration.
Burlington joined the rest of the nation in mourning the 49 people killed early Sunday when a gunman wielding an assault-type rifle and a handgun opened fire inside a crowded gay nightclub in Orlando. Authorities are investigating whether the attack was an act of terrorism, a hate crime, or both.
Organized by the Pride Center of Vermont, the march and vigil went far beyond the LGBTQ community.
Among its allies Monday night was Senator, presidential candidate, and former Burlington mayor Bernie Sanders, who said the large show of compassion is what makes his city such a special place.
"One hateful person committed this horrible crime, not an entire people or an entire religion," Sanders told the crowd that ended up gathering in City Hall Park. "Our job is to take pride in our diversity, to bring our people together, and not let hatred divide us up."
"Tonight we want to stand in solidarity with one another," said Kim Fountain, the executive director of the Pride Center of Vermont. "We want to stand against the hate speech and the narrow-mindedness that led to the shooting in the first place. We must meet violence with compassion. We must stand together as a community, locally, nationally, and across the world."
An imam from the Islamic Society of Vermont also spoke, completely rejecting the actions of the killer in Orlando, and saying the murderer in no way spoke for peace-loving Muslim-Americans. The imam also called the killer "evil," adding that evil has no place in this country.