WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA (CNS / FOX 11) - With nerves rattled by a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Florida and the arrest of a suspect carrying guns and explosive materials in Santa Monica, security was dramatically increased Sunday at the 46th LA Pride Parade and festival in West Hollywood.
The event, however, was held as scheduled, with organizers saying they would not bow to the threat of terrorism.
Elected officials from West Hollywood and Los Angeles gathered at the parade site this morning and said they were unified in their outrage at the Florida shooting that killed 50 people and injured at least 53 others, and encouraged parade and festival attendees to be vigilant. They joined attendees in a moment of silence in remembrance of the shooting victims before the parade began.
"Forty-six years ago, members of the LGBTQ community came out in cities across the country in response to the Stonewall Riots,'' according to a statement from the board of directors of Christopher Street West, which
sponsors the event. "Today, we are heartbroken that so many of our brothers, sisters and allies were lost in this tragic attack. As we remember them today at our moment of silence, we must continue to show our pride, not just today but every day.
"Our brave founders made this happen to show the world who we are. We will be loud. We will be proud and we will celebrate in honor of all those lost. Today's parade and festival will continue on as originally scheduled. We will also be holding a rally on our main stage this afternoon.''
Sheriff's officials said an estimated 150,000 people attended the parade, on par with last year's event. A total of about 400,000 are believed to attend festivities over the three-day run of the event.
LA Pride is one of the nation's biggest public festivals celebrating gay, lesbian and other alternate lifestyles, honoring the LGBTQ community's past struggles while celebrating its future generation of leaders.
Following the overnight shooting in Orlando, Florida, today's event became a memorial for those killed in the massacre. Nerves were further rattled with news of a morning arrest in Santa Monica of a man who was carrying multiple weapons and explosives materials, and told investigators he was planning to attend the Pride festival.
Authorities insisted there was no connection between the suspect and the shooter in Orlando.
Following the Orlando shooting, Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies activated their Criminal Intelligence Bureau to monitor information about the Orlando shooter's links to ISIS, and possible local threats.
"In light of the unfortunate shooting incident in Orlando, Florida, the Sheriff's Department is fully prepared to respond to a similar situation, should the need exist,'' said sheriff's Lt. Edward Ramirez told news outlets.
"As a result of the Pride Weekend, security has been increased. We, as a department, are in heightened awareness and our Criminal Intelligence Bureau has been activated today and they are gathering and disseminating information, as they receive it."
Sheriff's officials, however, urged people not to change their plans to attend the festival.
"We want to ensure the public that was have a large law enforcement presence and we encourage (the public) to come to West Hollywood and enjoy the parade, music, food and festivities."
Some people arriving for the event early this morning were in tears.
"I think there is grief, it's a very mournful feeling that we're all in,'' one woman told news outlets. "But I think that for me (the mass murder) is more of a reason to stand out here to say, `I am gender queer and these are my
"We are people, I think if anything it's just another reason to come out here to celebrate who we are just like anyone else,'' she said.
The 46th annual LA Pride Parade was, held along Santa Monica Boulevard,has been held every year since 1970, except for 1973 when infighting over crude displays the previous two years left the organizers in disarray. The parade was held in Hollywood until 1979, when it moved to West Hollywood.
The festival began Friday and is scheduled to conclude at 11 p.m. Grammy- nominated singer and songwriter Carly Rae Jepsen will be the main stage headliner.
Reaction to the Orlando shooting poured in from across the country, including the Southland.
Richard Zaldivar, director of a community organization that serves Latino LGBT people, said the shooting attack shows that Americans cannot "go to other lands and preach tolerance until hate is eradicated here in our homeland.''
Although details were still emerging about the motivations of the Orlando shooter -- who authorities have deemed a terrorist and who allegedly claimed allegiance to ISIS -- Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin, who is openly gay, said the massacre ``appears to have been motivated by homophobia.''
"As such, it is a reminder that homophobia is dangerous and can be deadly,'' he said, adding that his plans to take part in the Pride Parade were not changed.
"The parade is a chance for the LGBT community to come together in the name of love -- love for one another and for ourselves,'' he said. "Today we extend that love to our brothers and sisters in Orlando and march in solidarity with them.''
Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, the city's first openly gay mayor, announced plans for a 7:30 p.m. vigil at the city's Harvey Milk Park in memory of the shooting victims.
"Long Beach stands in strong solidarity with our LGBT brothers and sisters in Orlando, Florida,'' Garcia said. "This act of terrorism and hate has no place in our country. These victims were targeted for being gay and for
living and loving openly.''
The Israeli-American Council in Los Angeles issued a statement expressing shock and horror at the shootings.
"On behalf of the Israeli-American community, we condemn this act of terrorism in the strongest terms,'' according to the group. "Whether terrorism strikes in Brussels, Paris, Tel Aviv or Orlando, responsible leaders,
policymakers and moral people everywhere have a duty to speak our forcefully against this global evil, and to stand against the hateful ideology that fuels it. This is a growing danger that threatens innocents everywhere.''
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