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Gay pride events festive but some concerned after Orlando

CHICAGO — The music was thumping and crowds were dancing Saturday at gay pride events around the United States, with some revelers saying the partying was proof that people won't give in to fear after last weekend's attack at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

Festivals and parades went ahead under increased security in cities such as Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; and Providence, R.I.

At Chicago Pride Fest, security staff meticulously checked bags, unzipping each and every pocket, and extra police patrolled on foot in a highly visible presence.

The annual two-day street festival in the Boystown neighborhood draws thousands of revelers and serves as a warmup to Chicago's even bigger Pride Parade the following weekend. Attorney Kavita Puri said that after Orlando, the Chicago event took on even more importance.

"I wouldn't call it defiance," she said. "I wouldn't call it perseverance. I would call it just living your life and not being scared to live your life."

By noon, a DJ had already cranked the music to ear-splitting volume, energizing a crowd that included young clubbers, families pushing kids in strollers, and retirees. The only outward sign of the Orlando attack was a makeshift memorial of flowers, rainbow flags and candles clustered on a street corner.

The attack was on Cheryl Hora's mind. The school bus driver from suburban Rolling Meadows, Ill., said her son, a drag performer, had done a show at Pulse in October and has a close friend who lost a cousin in the attack. Her son was performing Saturday at the Chicago festival, and Hora said it was important for her to cheer him on.

"We're just down here to support him," she said. "We thoroughly believe in what he's doing and thoroughly believe in his happiness."

In New Orleans, Frank Bonner and Pedro Egui wore matching American flag tank tops as they stood with their arms around each other outside a bar called the Phoenix where the city's pride parade would pass.

"It's really hit me hard," said Equi, who said he lost a partner to suicide a couple of years ago. "It's like all the grieving is sort of seen again," he said. "So I'm happy to be here to celebrate life and celebrate all of us."

Local sheriff's deputies were posted outside the Phoenix. And in the French Quarter, a strong police presence was evident.

Security was tight elsewhere, too. At a pride event in Grand Rapids, Mich., police patrolled by car, bike and on foot, and enforced a clear bag policy to keep suspicious items out of the street fair, WZZM-TV reported.

In Columbus, Ohio, Pride Parade grand marshal Lana Moore, a retired firefighter who is transgender, said there was heightened resolve in the aftermath of the Orlando attack.

"This is America and we're a free people," Moore told the Columbus Dispatch.

Crowds were thinner this year at Rhode Island PrideFest in Providence, said Shay Pimentel, who has volunteered at the event for three years.

"I think some people might be scared with everything's that happened," Pimentel said.

Some said the Orlando attack struck a blow to the community in contrast to last year when the LGBT community celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in favor of same-sex marriage.

Revelers wait for a champagne toast to kick off New Orleans Pride on Saturday. In the French Quarter, a strong police presence was evident.

Associated Press

Revelers wait for a champagne toast to kick off New Orleans Pride on Saturday. In the French Quarter, a strong police presence was evident.

St. Pete Pride set for next weekend

The annual St. Pete LGBT Pride Parade will be held Friday through next Sunday, and much tighter security is expected this year. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said Thursday that there will be an increased police presence in the wake of the Orlando shooting. The parade, which will be held in the city on Saturday, is billed as the largest LGBT pride parade in Florida.

Gay pride events festive but some concerned after Orlando 06/18/16 [Last modified: Saturday, June 18, 2016 11:34pm]
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