Love, hope fill air at Houston vigil for Orlando victims

Thursday, June 16, 2016

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Thousands packed into the plaza outside Houston City Hall for a candlelight vigil standing in solidarity with Orlando Wednesday night.

Most of the people in the massive crowd didn't know anyone who was hurt or killed in the massacre. Some did, like Brent Smith, whose friend Shane Tomlinson was one of the 49 killed. For everyone here, Sunday's attack affected them all.

"It's really devastating because being a gay person trying to live my life the best way I can, to find out I can't go anywhere without the possibility of being annihilated is sort of apropos," says Joy Matthews.

Justin Fuselier stood outside City Hall with a sign offering free hugs. He lost count of how many he gave.

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"That's what we need right now, smiles and love," he says.

Just a few days away from the start of Houston's Pride week, local and federal law enforcement are looking into a threat made on social media. An anonymous person tweeted: "There will be a massive shooting at the Pride Parade in Houston Texas."

"People are gonna threaten you your whole life, and if you give them the fire of backing down and hiding away, then you're not being yourself," Fuselier told us when we asked him about the threat.

Joy Matthews says this kind of threat was inevitable.

HPD and the FBI tell Eyewitness News they're aware of the threat and are looking into it.

At the vigil, city leaders from the Mayor to City Council focused not on the threat, but what brought them all together.

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"We are committing ourselves that for these 49 and so many others, the music will continue to play," Mayor Sylvester Turner told the crowd.

They read all 49 names, and lit a candle for each one. And everyone present re-affirmed their commitment to love and to live.

"If I stop living my life, what's the point," Matthews explained.

"They can try to do all they can, but threats can't kill love. So we're gonna have more love at Pride this year than we ever did," added Jonee Longoria.

The profile where the anonymous threat was tweeted was deleted shortly after our report on Eyewitness News Live at 5. We asked HPD if they're increasing security at the Pride Parade in light of that threat. We're told planning security for major events goes on until the day of, so if anything needs to be altered they'll make those changes accordingly.