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Making a stand against hate: UK unites to support Orlando

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Cities across the UK will come to a standstill on Monday evening in a tribute to the 49 people murdered at a gay club in Orlando over the weekend - America's deadliest mass shooting in modern history.

In London's Soho, bars on Old Compton Street will stop serving at 7pm and encourage customers to take to the streets as balloons are released in honour of those killed at Pulse nightclub in the early hours of Sunday.

orlando victims

Friends and family of victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting outside the Orlando Police Department

More than 2,000 people have said they will attend London Stands with Orlando, which has been organised by members of the LGBT community in the capital.

Vigils across the country include:

  • George Square, Glasgow, 5.30pm
  • Lower Briggate, Leeds, 11pm
  • Speaker’s Corner, Nottingham: 7pm
  • Central Hall, Coventry, 7pm
  • New Stine, Brighton, 7.30pm

Pride In London will hold a minute's silence to remember the Orlando victims when it holds its main weekend of activities on 25 June in Trafalgar Square.

Vigils and rainbow-themed tributes have been taking place across the world and online through the #PrayforOrlando hashtag. One World Trade Center was among the famous landmarks to light up its spires.

The attack was carried out by lone gunman Omar Mateen, who called 911 to pledge allegiance to so-called Islamic State before he opened fire, NBC News reports.

The 29-year-old security guard, who was born in New York, has been described by his ex-wife as "mentally ill" and "violent." A former colleague told NBC he was "racist" and that his "button-pushers" were "always women, race or religion." He was shot dead by police at the scene.

Mateen's father said his son hated gay people.

friends and family of victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting wait outside of the Orlando Police Department

Friends and family of victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting outside the Orlando Police Department

There were more than 300 people in the popular nightclub when he opened fire and many who heard the first gunshots believed they were part of the music. 

"All you saw is people running and screaming and there were bodies in the parking lot where bodies were being tagged," club-goer Christopher Hansen told CNN. "It was like a scene from a horror movie."

One mother told of how her murdered son's heartbreaking last texts to her read: “Mommy I love you ... In club they shooting.”

Mina Justice's 30-year-old son Eddie was trapped in the club's toilets as the gunman fired out shots from an AR-15 assault rifle and a handgun. 

“He’s coming I’m gonna die,” the terrified man wrote. He was confirmed to have died this morning.

More than 50 people have been injured in the shooting, many seriously.

In Orlando, blood banks have been overwhelmed by people queuing up to make donations to help the injured.

"You want to do something to help," Frank Tiffany, 69, told the Orlando Sentinel, as he waited in line with hundreds of others. "It's hard to believe ...You have to do something to help. You can't stay home."

Volunteers wait to donate blood for victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting at One Blood

Volunteers wait to donate blood for victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting at One Blood

In an address to the nation, President Obama described the attack as an "act of terror and an act of hate." He called it a "heartbreaking day" for the LGBT community. David Cameron said he was "horrified" by the massacre.

As the identities of victims begin to emerge, JK Rowling tweeted a tribute to 22-year-old Luis Vielma, who worked on the Harry Potter theme park ride in Orlando.

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