At West Hollywood Pride, spirits strong but also somber
It would be impossible to pretend the nightclub attack in Orlando hadn't cast a shadow over the Pride parade Sunday morning in West Hollywood. News of the arrest of a heavily-armed suspect in Santa Monica also didn't help ease concern. But it certainly didn't shatter the celebration either.
"We are here to march, to celebrate and to mourn," Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti said to the tens of thousands of revelers who turned out for the festivities on this cool, gray Sunday morning.
The parade began with a moment of silence to honor those who were slain in Orlando. NBC Los Angeles also reports seeing parade participants wearing black arm bands in memory of the victims.
The 46th annual LA Pride parade had the same elements it always does — rainbow flags, glitter, outrageous outfits, creative floats and a celebratory atmosphere. But it also had a heavier law enforcement presence with officers from the LAPD joining deputies from the L.A. Sheriff's Department to keep the peace.
The attack in Orlando didn't seem to diminish the number of people who showed up. In fact, some like Joe Bruno, took the opposite approach. "I think the whole point of what those terrorists and those people do are to scare you to stay away," he says. "I wasn't even going to come today. I specifically came out today to show my support for my community, for the people here."
But amid the massive crowds, security was on the mind of everyone who spoke to KPCC reporter Stephen Hoffman. It was especially pressing given the news that a man with a cache of weapons and potentially headed to Pride had been arrested in Santa Monica.
Police have since identified the man as James Howell of Indiana. He has no known connection to Omar Mateen, the shooter in the Orlando attack.
Liz Heron, who had brought her 9-year-old son tells KPCC, "I wouldn't have brought him if I didn't think we'd be safe. Everyone seems to be in really good spirits… They're not going to let the event yesterday dampen it or silence them, which is great."
But Alex Button tells KPCC, "I'm actually really pretty nervous. It's definitely something in the back of my mind."
"Everyone's in high spirits," says Adam Eramian operations manager of nightclub Micky's West Hollywood says. "You can't live your life in fear. We're here to have a good time and show our pride. We're not going to let one incident ruin our event today — but our prayers and thoughts go out to everyone in Orlando."
Eramian also pointed out that violence is not new to the LGBT community. "LGBT persons have been attacked for years, both in the United States and abroad," he says. "So our job today is to continue to be out and proud."
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