On the steps of the U.S. Capitol, around the fountain at Dupont Circle and in the suburbs, Washington gathered Monday by the hundreds to mourn the Orlando dead and to signal opposition to fear, hate and violence.
The assemblies in the Washington area — of which Muslim groups were principal sponsors — drew members of Congress, congressional staffers, local officials and other citizens who voiced support for the LGBT community and for their friends, neighbors and colleagues of the Islamic faith as well.
It was the second day that such gatherings -- some spur of the moment, some planned — were held around the country and around the world to demonstrate solidarity with the victims of extremist acts.
In one of the most striking moments of the day, many of those gathered at Dupont Circle emitted a collective scream. A participant, Joshua Rebollozo, 23, of the District’s Columbia Heights neighborhood, said the gesture was a way to “put emotion into a sound.”
Rebollozo, a federal worker, spoke of the happiness and optimism in the community. Others also said they wished to emphasize love over hostility. Rebollozo said it was a “vibe” that could “grow and overcome any tragedy.”
Another participant, Eric Tobin, 51, of Northwest Washington, indicated his belief that the time had come to finally deal effectively with gun violence.
“It’s enough already,” he said. “Nobody needs these guns.”
Yet amid the expressions of solidarity at the circle, fear could not be banished.
“I was scanning the crowd to see if there was a nut job,” said Tobin, who is an interior designer. “I was raised to be aware of my surroundings, but now I’m super-vigilant.”
The organizer of the Dupont event, the Muslim American Women’s Policy Forum, said it was a chance “to mourn the lives of people killed and wounded in Orlando” as a result of “homophobic and transphobic violence.” The group said it was also to express opposition to fear of Islam.
Earlier, at least 300 people gathered on the Capitol steps on the House side, to observe a moment of silence to honor the victims of the mass killing.
Several members of Congress took part, including Rep. André Carson (D-Ind.). A member of the Muslim faith, Carson had issued a news release denouncing what he described as a “heartless and brutal attack” not only on the LGBT community but also on “everyone who values freedom and equality.”
Although all details were not known, he said, the killings were clearly “an act of hate.” While the country struggled to absorb the tragedy, he said, “we must not and will not succumb to fear.”
The event was sponsored by the LGBT Congressional Staffers Association and an organization of Muslim congressional staff members.
In Montgomery County, about 150 people assembled Monday night at offices in the Montgomery Village area and heard Hamza Khan, who heads the county’s Muslim Democratic Club, express profound sorrow on behalf of the members of his faith.
“The Muslim community is heartbroken,” Khan said, adding: “To say I feel angry is not enough. To say I am heartbroken is not enough.”
In expressing solidarity with the LGBT community, he told of gay teachers and mentors who supported him and his familyat difficult times such as after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, when many Muslims felt isolated.
As elsewhere, speakers voiced opposition to what they suggested was an increase in intolerance and attempts to marginalize minorities.
“We will not be scared back into our closets,” said Patrick Paschall, executive director of Free State Legal, an advocacy group for low-income LGBT residents. He called the attack “the result of the political climate we allow to exist today.”
Rabbi Charles Arian of Kehilat Shalom in Gaithersburg said: “There is a wave of hatred in this country that is consuming lives, and we are here to say ‘enough.’”
Elected officials in the audience included Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh, state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery) and Montgomery County Council members George L. Leventhal (D-At Large) and Sidney Katz (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville).
At the end came what seemed almost like nostalgia for the hours before the shooting, a time, according to Khan, when members of the LGBTQ community, among other groups joined Muslims Saturday night in breaking the daily fast that characterizes the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
It was a hopeful moment, a moment of brotherhood, and it was a first-of-its-kind moment that Khan said he had hoped would be repeated.
The sudden descent into tragedy was “one of the saddest ironies I’ve ever encountered,” Khan said.