Thousands gather to celebrate love and life during L.A. Pride Festival
WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (FOX11) - The annual LA Pride Parade rolled through West Hollywood today.
Santa Monica Boulevard was packed with people celebrating equality, unity and togetherness.
50,000 people from LA's LGBTQ+ and straight communities marched together. Everyone was welcome and could feel like they're part of something.
"Thirty years ago, when I first came on this department, I had to hide who I was. I had to pretend I was somebody that wasn't supported and loved," says L.A. County Sheriff's Lieutenant Tonya Edwards, showing off her new sheriff pride patch on the left arm of her uniform.
"It's an incredible - oh my God, I'm actually tearing up. To see Sheriff Alex Villanueva support us in the way that he's supporting us and wearing the patch and letting us wear it."
This year's theme is "Love is Love." Los Angeles hosted the world's first permitted parade advocating gay rights almost 50 years ago in response to the Stonewall Rebellion in New York City.
"When I was little, I always wanted ruby slippers and my mom told me, 'some people are going to like you and some people are going to hate you, but at the end of the day, I'm always going to love you,' and that's what pride is about, loving who you are no matter what people think," says Aunduh Estemated.
The L.A. Co. Sheriff's Department, L.A. Fire Department, the FBI, many politicians and famous singers dressed in their pride best and walked proudly.
"Today is a wonderful thing because I get to just party. I don't have to worry about singing or trying to remember lyrics, just celebrate good times," says Thelma Houston.
"It's a day to recognize the beauty of humanity in all of our forms and really come together and celebrate," says California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, waiting to enter the parade.
"It's extraordinary but we have to keep fighting for a society that embraces everybody," says State Senator Ben Allen.
"Pride is being who we are, being proud of who we are and going forward no matter what anyone else says," says Temple Akiba of Culver City Rabbi Zach Shapiro.
"Freedom. Freedom to be whoever you want to be," says Alicia Carbone.
Rose Nicewarner, watching the parade says, "to be visible and show who you really are."
"Remembering the people who we've lost, and I think also celebrating the life that's still here," says pride participant Carson Rosello. "Just thanking the people back at Stonewall, even before that, who are working towards doing things so that way we can stuff like this right here.
"It's just really great and exciting to be here. I'm just happy, really happy to be here," boasts Madeline Bub.
For the first time, L.A. Pride and West Hollywood are throwing a free block party called "Pride on the Boulevard" with live music, beer gardens and non-profit organisations. Part of the proceeds from this weekend's events support low-income housing for people living with HIV/AIDS.