NEW YORK (AP) — Onlookers lined up early and police ramped up security Sunday to get ready for New York City’s famous gay pride parade, a march that would be both a celebration of barriers breached and a remembrance of the lives lost in a shooting at a gay nightclub in Florida.
“Last year was such a celebratory time, and this year, we have this happening,” says James Fallarino, a spokesman for organizers of the New York parade, one of the nation’s oldest. “But that’s also why it’s so important that we are out and loud and proud.
“If we change our event — if we make everything somber — it’s, in many ways, allowing those who wish to silence us to win.”
Sunday’s parades in New York, San Francisco and other cities are unfolding two weeks after an Orlando gay nightclub became the site of the nation’s deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Celebrations planned around such themes as supporting transgender people and pressing for economic justice have quickly taken on new meanings. Paradegoers will see increased security, anti-violence messages and tributes to those killed in Orlando. In New York City, pre-parade activities included a handful of people walking down traffic-free Fifth Avenue holding banners with photos of those who died.
Authorities expected a larger than usual crowd. That included Chelsea Restrepo, 15, of Staten Island, who came to the march for the first time. She’d planned to come anyway, “but what happened in Orlando made me want to come more,” said Restrepo, swathed in a multicolored scarf.
She said she brushed aside her father’s concerns in showing up. “My dad was, like, I’m worried after Orlando. And I was, like, I’m going, to show my support.”
Sunday’s parades also have a new milestone to mark: President Barack Obama on Friday designated the site around New York City’s Stonewall Inn as the first national monument to gay rights. A 1969 police raid on the bar helped catalyze the gay rights movement.
And just before the start of the parade, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the Stonewall Inn would be designated as a state historic site. He also said New York would erect a monument in honor of all victims of hate and intolerance, including those killed in Orlando.
The lead float in New York’s parade will be dedicated to the Orlando victims. Marchers will carry 49 orange flags — the color of choice for campaigns against gun violence — through the route. A “We Are Orlando” solidarity group has been added to the lineup. And gun-control, anti-gun-violence groups have joined the lineup since the shooting forged new bonds between them and gay-rights activists.