A tight knot of people cradled candles and commiserated along a DeMers Avenue sidewalk on Thursday evening, praying and remembering the lives of the more than 50 people killed in a Las Vegas mass shooting Sunday evening.
Though the event was organized by Rabbi Jamie Serber, who spoke at length, the vigil was billed as a "multi-faith" event and drew remarks from Ojibwe and Muslim speakers besides the handful of others who offered prayers or thoughts in the wake of this week's violence.
"It's important for us to come out as a community, and especially a diverse one at that, so people can acknowledge and be with one another," Serber said. "This is an incredibly raw moment in time, and it's incredibly important for there to be community and a sense of love between individuals so no one is left grieving or mourning by themselves."
After a few remarks, the group read a list of the names of shooting victims, each reading one and passing the list around the circle of more than a dozen people. Afterward, some in the group appeared deeply moved, including Ramon Salinas, who came to the event with his family.
"It hurts my heart. I couldn't imagine my family being in that situation, and I feel for the families that have been in that situation," he said.
The event was held in front of Brothers Firearm Shop, which is moving into the space at 214 DeMers Avenue. After the event, Serber said she's concerned the shop will make it easy to access a firearm downtown.
Travis Chiasson, owner of Brothers Firearm Shop, expressed sympathy for the victims of the shooting and said store management "support peaceful protest by any means."
"We feel for the victims in Las Vegas just as much as anybody else. We hope (for) a quick recovery for the victims that survived," he said noting that the nearby presence of Cabela's, which also sells firearms, has not provoked gun violence downtown. "I don't want to bash anybody for speaking out."
Nabil Suleiman, president of the Islamic Center of Grand Forks, also offered remarks at the vigil. Afterward, he criticized the suggestion, which he said he's seen repeated by politicians and in media, that the suspected shooter, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, wasn't "connected to terrorism."
"We're seeing blood on the ground, people are in disarray, so scared. Obviously, they are terrorized from shots raining down on them. If that's not terrorism, then what the heck is terrorism?" he said. "If a person named Mohammed runs down a pedestrian with his car. Obviously, that would be called terrorism. It looks like it has to do with who did it-not with what has been done."