Sad but defiant LA Pride parade goers share their thoughts with me about Orlando and local threat
It obviously turned out to be a far different morning on Sunday for those lined up along Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood to watch the 46th annual LA Pride Parade.
Just hours earlier, a gunman had killed at least 50 people inside of a gay club in Orlando, Florida and left 53 more people wounded.
Closer to home, a heavily-armed 20-year-old man was arrested in Santa Monica and said he’d planned to carry out an attack at the LA parade.
I arrived to West Hollywood with a heavy heart for all of those victims and for their families.
It’s unimaginable grief for them and God bless them.
I wandered around a bit as participants got ready for the parade and everywhere I looked, there was security. Some people were very subdued and others already seemed determined to have a good time.
I then attended a press conference (will post that next) before walking along the parade route to chat with people about what they were feeling.
‘I’m glad LA was so quick to respond (in Santa Monica),’ David Gray (pictured with his boyfriend, above) told me as he sat on some grass that would usually crowded with parade watchers by this time.
‘There’s obviously a large police presence here this morning. Certainly it’s all so terrible. We can’t panic. We just have to be alert and keep our eyes open. We can’t cower in our homes. Life needs to go on as usual.’
Although official parade attendance numbers are not yet available, the crowd was visibly smaller than in most years with stretches of the route sparsely lined with spectators.
Bo Barnes, 26, admits that he and his boyfriend, Andy Pompei, initially considered staying home.
‘In light of what happened, we were thinking of not coming. We were scared. Then we said, “Fuck it. Let’s do it.’
Added Pompei, 29: ‘We thought it was important to come out and show support. What happened in Santa Monica is extremely terrifying. But I think the idea of a hate crime is to scare people. I refuse to be scared on Pride.’
Dominique Hedrick, 24, wore a black leather jacket on the chilly, overcast morning which on the back had the words ‘Angry,’ ‘Wild,’ and “Queer.’
But if she had room for one more word on that jacket it would have been ‘heartbroken.’
‘I was planning to be here anyway but when I heard the news, it made me get out of bed so much faster. I’m so heartbroken,’ said Hedrick (pictured, left).
‘It’s sad being here and seeing how there is a need for so much more police presence right now. They really need to protect us right now.’
Standing nearby holding a sign that read ‘We Stand With Orlando’ was 48-year-old Habeeb Rasheed (pictured, below) who originally had no plans to attend the parade.
But then he saw the news and what had happened in Orlando and he quickly made the sign and got in the car.
‘They were targeted because they were gay and it made me think about the orgins of this (Pride) event and how important it is to remain visible. That’s why I came out here.’
Longtime West Hollywood City Councilman John Duran told me as he walked along the route about an hour before the start of the parade: ‘The parade is going to go on – otherwise the terrorists win.’