CHICAGO (AP) — The music was thumping and crowds were dancing Saturday at gay pride events around the U.S., 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 Florida.
Festivals and parades went ahead under increased security in cities such as Chicago, Columbus, Ohio; and Providence, Rhode Island, a week after a gunman fired on a crowd at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. The attack left 49 people dead.
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 D.J. 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 a few blocks away.
The attack was on Cheryl Hora’s mind. The school bus driver from suburban Rolling Meadows, Illinois, said her son, a drag performer, had performed 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 — wearing a button with the words “I love my gay son” — said it was important for her to turn up and 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.”
Security was tight elsewhere, too. At a pride event in Grand Rapids, Michigan, 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, which was carried out by a gunman who had expressed hatred of gay people and sympathy for Islamic extremists.
“This is America and we’re a free people,” Moore told the Columbus Dispatch.
The Columbus chapter of Muslims for Progressive Values marched in the parade for the fourth time. Group founder Frank Parmir told the newspaper that they were trying to combat the hatred felt toward gay people.
“It has to stop,” he said.
In Denver, Veteran of Foreign Wars Post 1 will march in that city’s parade on Sunday, carrying a giant U.S. flag hand-sewn by two gay veterans in Chicago. Organizers said turnout was light for Saturday’s festivities there, but that they expected bigger crowds after the temperature cooled off later in the day.
Associated Press writer Steve Paulson in Denver contributed to this report.