San Jose rai­ses Rainbow Flag to honor Orlando

A rainbow flag was raised in San Jose Monday┬áto honor the 49 people killed at an Orlando, Florida gay nightclub over the weekend in the nation’s largest mass shooting in modern history.

About 100 local leaders and community members came together at McEntee Plaza at the Santa Clara County Government Center this afternoon for a brief moment of silence. They also heard remarks before county Supervisor Ken Yeager and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo raised the rainbow flag in memory of the shooting victims.

A sole gunman killed 49 people and injured dozens at Pulse nightclub before he was fatally shot by police early Sunday morning, FBI officials said.

During the attack, the shooter made 911 calls from the club stating his allegiance to the Islamic State group. The suspect also had past contacts with federal investigators since 2013, according to the FBI.

Yeager said:

“This tragic loss of life reminds of the fear and violence faced by so many LGBTQ Americans on a daily basis.”

Today’s flag ceremony showed the county has no tolerance for hatred or violence, Yeager said:

“We mourn, but we do not lose hope.”

Yeager, an openly gay man, pointed to how Santa Clara County established the country’s first LGBT Affairs Office at a county level.

Liccardo said:

“This is our moment to use this grief as a means to enable us to find common ground where too many are willing to find division.”

Sheriff Laurie Smith called on the public to accept, embrace and love everyone in the community, including LGBTQ people.

She also asked people to report any suspicious acts, no matter how small they may be.

Maribel Martinez, head of the county’s LGBTQ Affairs Office, read the names and ages of the 49 victims as flags were flown to half-staff.

More focus should first and foremost be on the victims, said Sameena Usman, government relations coordinator at the Council on American-Islamic Relations San Francisco Bay Area chapter.

The LGBTQ community has spoken out after horrific events including 9/11 and now it’s time for the Muslim community to stand in solidarity with them, Usman said.

San Jose couple Terrence Vargas, 42, and Johnny Zych, 43, took the day off to attend today’s ceremony and other events held in memory of the nightclub shooting victims, who they consider part of their LGBT family.

They wore Mickey Mouse-shaped pins bearing a rainbow that they bought from Walt Disney World near Orlando.

Vargas said:

“Whenever I see that flag, it’s a symbol of peace for the LGBT community and it represents who we are as a people.”

The county’s Board of Supervisors, San Jose City Councilwoman Magdalena Carrasco, police Chief Eddie Garcia, Campbell Mayor Jason Baker and Sunnyvale City Councilman Jim Davis were also at today’s gathering.