L.A. Stands Strong With Orlando During LGBT Pride Parade

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L.A. Pride parade participants showed their support for Orlando. (Photo: Carly Milne)

The mood may have been somber at the Los Angeles Pride parade in the wake of the mass shooting at a gay Orlando nightclub early Sunday morning that left 50 dead and 53 injured, but the celebration needed to go on.

“There’s a recognition there that this year’s Pride is something different,” parade attendee Rod Lopez, 27, told Yahoo Celebrity. “Last year was much more celebratory because the federal ban on gay marriage had just been lifted. But this year, we’re here because we have to be. It’s very intentional that we’re here.”

Lopez admitted, though, that he and his fiancé, Nathan Olmeda, 28, debated not attending this year’s Pride parade, particularly after news broke that Santa Monica police arrested an Indiana man armed with guns and explosives, who said he was on his way to the L.A. Pride festival in West Hollywood to cause harm. But as Lopez puts it, “If ever there were a time for us to go to Pride, it’s now. We have to be proud and unafraid regardless of the fear. So many of [us live] our lives in fear. This is a threat that we face, so better for us to be celebrating together now regardless of that fear.”

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The annual L.A. Pride weekend is a banner event in the city, widely attended and joyously celebrated by civilians and celebrities alike. This year’s celebrity attendees included the casts of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, actor Daniel Franzese, and singer Belinda Carlisle, among others.

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And though it initially felt like there was a dark cloud hovering over the parade due to the tragedy on the East Coast, marked by a moment of silence at the event’s start, the mood eventually became more lighthearted and uplifting. The crowd made sure to honor those affected by the horrific shootings that took place at Pulse Nightclub while still celebrating what it means to be part of the LGBTQ community.

“There’s this mixture of celebration and grief in the air — we kind of have to force some smiles to continue to be proud of our identities and of who we are, and to be celebratory of each other regardless of what’s going on,” noted Olmeda. “But I think in the back of everyone’s mind, we’re remembering. I love that we’re not only celebrating ourselves, but in the midst of every float, you can see some kind of [nod to] Orlando and the people we lost.”

Indeed, attendees and parade participants alike shared their solidarity with Orlando in a variety of ways. Police and FBI who marched in the parade did so while holding “We [heart] Orlando” signs, while people who walked with brands such as Netflix, Soul Cycle, Macy’s, Yahoo, and more carried handmade signs proclaiming sentiments like, “L.A. is Sending Love to Orlando,” “Showing our Pride for Orlando,” and “L.A. loves you, Orlando. You will not be silenced.”

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L.A. police chief Charlie Beck (left) and city mayor Eric Garcetti (center) walked the parade route. (Photo: Getty Images)

Supporters of Hillary Clinton also marched in the parade with signs in support of Orlando, while the West Hollywood City Council held signs reading “We Are Pulse,” and parading lifeguards wrote the club’s name on their arms in black ink with a remembrance ribbon. As a girl dressed in fairy wings danced in front of the crowd, working to get them hyped up, she hollered, “Cheer for Florida – c’mon!” Everyone erupted with claps, whistles, and hoots of support.

“Nobody seems very affected by it, but we’re trying to give happiness even though there’s not happiness everywhere — that’s what Pride is about,” said attendee Walter Recavarren, 34. “We try to show the world that we’re a community, regardless of the violence that’s going on.”

After walking the parade route, L.A. mayor Eric Garcetti shared his thoughts with ABC News, noting, “It was one of the biggest outpourings I have seen in years. People who told me [they] hadn’t been at a Pride parade in years came to show strength and solidarity with Orlando and also to say that we won’t be beaten back.”

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Yahoo took part in the L.A. Pride festivities. (Photo: Carly Milne)

And it wasn’t just people who hadn’t been to Pride in a while showing up to lend their support — it was also people who hadn’t been to Pride ever. Countless attendees shared that this was their first Pride event, and even those who were planning to attend regardless of the shootings felt their decision to go carried that much more weight in the wake of the attacks.

“If we show fear, it’s like they’re winning,” said Chloe Darmon, 25, who has attended Pride in both Paris and Sydney prior to her first Los Angeles celebration.

“For me, it’s bittersweet,” added Laura Myers, 27. “It’s exciting being here for the first time, but it affects you, for sure. Everyone is feeling it.”

Unfortunately, the parade wasn’t without the usual controversy. Prior to its start, a small group of religious people walked the parade route with picket signs decrying sin and encouraging people to heed the word of Jesus. For the most part, they were ignored — save for some middle finger salutes. On the other side of the barricades, another group of zealots carried signs about burning in hell as they shouted “shame on you” to the assembled crowd, who shouted the same back at them, only louder. As one attendee put it, “Maybe they could just say, you know, today we’re just going to let it go.”

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Even so, Mayor Garcetti insisted the protests didn’t dampen the mood. “We have protesters who were there for their freedom of speech rights, but the day was incredibly enthusiastic. There was a lot of love, people crying, people celebrating, people hugging,” he shared with ABC News. “We’re targeted in this country, whether it’s from home grown or other terrorists, because of who we are. We have Muslims and Jews and Christians and atheists and Buddhists together. And we have black, brown, white, Asian, Native Americans… That same diversity that we saw today at L.A. Pride, one of the largest in the nation, showed that the American spirit cannot be beat down.”

From L.A. to Orlando, the message was clear: We mourn you. We support you. We celebrate you. Stay strong. We will overcome.