South Tyneside sends message of solidarity for Orlando shooting victims
The Mayor of South Tyneside has sent out a message of solidarity to America - as borough buildings flew flags at half mast in memory of the victims of a mass shooting at a Florida nightspot.
The rainbow flag - the emblem of the Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, and Transgender community - took pride of place at South Shields Town Hall and South Police Station as South Tyneside joined the global outpouring of sympathy for the 49 people killed in the horrific attack at a gay club in Orlando, Florida.
Gunman Omar Mateen opened fire at The Pulse club in the early hours of Sunday morning before taking hostages as police desperately sought to gain entry to the venue.
Another 53 people were injured in the worst mass shooting in recent US history.
Mateen was himself killed after exchanging gunfire with police.
Mateen, a US citizen of Afghan descent who was born in New York and lived in Florida, was not on a terrorism watch list.
He had legally purchased several guns in the days before the attack.
The Mayor of South Tyneside, Councillor Alan Smith, said the thoughts of the borough were with the people of Orlando, who are still struggling to come to the terms with a brutal massacre on their doorstep.
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Coun Smith said: “Our thoughts are with the people of Orlando at this tragic time and we stand in solidarity with them.
“The flag at South Shields Town Hall is flying at half-mast as a mark of respect to the victims and their families and friends.
“I have also sent a letter of condolence and solidarity to the US Ambassador in London.”
Northumbria Police says it is flying the Rainbow flag at stations across the borough.
A force spokesman said: “We are flying the rainbow flag half mast at stations across the force area to show our solidarity and support for the LGBT community in Orlando and across the world.
“We stand united with the world against hate crime and there is no place for violence, massacre, abuse or discrimination because of who you are.
“We are sending love and light to all our LGBT communities locally and internationally.”