Tension at Orlando victims funeral

Funerals for two of the 49 victims killed in the shooting at a nightclub in Florida were marked by tense scenes as a driver accused of injuring two law enforcement officers and one burial took place under the watch of anti-gay protesters.

Two Osceola County Sheriff’s deputies on motorcycles were injured at the funeral procession for Jean Carlos Mendez in Kissimmee, Florida, some 20 miles south of Orlando, when a driver cut through the cortege and struck them with her car, according to a statement on the sheriff’s Facebook page.

The sheriff’s spokeswoman, Twis Lizasuain said the deputies were taken to the hospital, where both were in stable condition.

At the funeral of another victim, Christopher Leinonen, at a church close to the center of Orlando, a handful of protesters from the Kansas-based anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church stood silently for about 45 minutes. They were blocked from view of those attending the funeral by about 200 counter-protesters, who cheered when the Westboro members left.

Members of the Orlando Shakespeare Theater used large “angel wings,” measuring 8 feet wide and reaching 3 feet over shoulder height, to block out the protesters. The wings, made of white cloth and plastic piping by volunteers from the theater’s costume and set shops, first surfaced at the 1998 funeral of Matthew Shepard, a gay man murdered in Wyoming.

The shooting in Orlando continued to reverberate around the world. More than a thousand people attended a candle-light vigil in Berlin to show solidarity with the victims of the attack and their families. The Brandenburg Gate, long a symbol of division in the city, was lit up in rainbow colours.

Authorities are still investigating what motivated Omar Mateen to kill 49 people at the popular gay nightclub Pulse in the early hours of last Sunday, perpetrating the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Mateen was later killed in a shoot-out with police.

The shooting has sparked a new push for gun control legislation and Congress is expected to vote on proposals starting next week, including one on stopping people on terrorism watch lists from buying guns.

Democrats, including President Barack Obama, are framing gun restrictions as a national security issue after Mateen professed loyalty to Islamist militants. But authorities believe he was “self-radicalized” and acted without any direction from outside networks.

Reuters/Hauwa M.