Thousands crowded the streets Monday night around the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan where large-scale gay rights activism got its start in 1969.
People held hands and hugged under banners heralding the upcoming Pride Week. Some waved rainbow flags and others carried signs showing support for Orlando as they listened to a slew of elected officials, including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Cuomo and de Blasio called on New Yorkers to demand stricter gun control from Congress and for "inclusion and tolerance and love and understanding."
Cuomo said, "Let's say tonight this is the day federal government will pass sensible gun control because enough is enough."
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The governor and the mayor, whose political squabbling have played out in the media in recent months, sounded similar messages urging inclusion and unity.
"We do not accept the notion of any of our leaders sowing hatred and division, particularly in the wake of tragedy, and that means you, Donald Trump," de Blasio said to cheers.
"We we have more work to do in this city but we believe in something, and it makes us a beacon to the world -- we believe that inclusion and tolerance and love and understanding are the way forward for this earth and we show it every day in New York City," the mayor said.
Both Cuomo and de Blasio called on the world to attend the upcoming Pride Parade to make it "the largest and safest" one in history.
Spectators watched from fire escapes and windows of nearby apartment buildings as chants of "love beats hate" rang from the crowd.
At the end of the vigil, attendees held candles and some sobbed as the names of the victims were recited. Each name was met with the Spanish cry of "Presente!" from the crowd.
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Thomas Dougherty, 23, of Manhattan, said he came to the rally to feel united and connected.
He said he had friends in Orlando who ordinarily could have been at Pulse and he spent a frantic Sunday tracking them down to make sure they were all OK.
"Seeing everyone here makes me feel at home, makes me feel safe," he said.
A police counterterrorism unit stood watch for safety at the event outside the Greenwich Village tavern, which President Barack Obama has proposed to designate as the first national monument honoring the history of gays and lesbians in the U.S.
A 1969 police raid at Stonewall led to street protests widely credited as the start of large-scale gay rights activism.