After Orlando Shooting, |NYC Pieces It Together for Pride

     MANHATTAN (CN) – The show will go on but with heightened security, as New York City’s Pride Parade kicks off in the wake of the Orlando gay bar shooting that left 50 dead and at least 50 others maimed.
     Pride spokesman James Fallarino said Thursday that canceling any of the events at the nation’s largest Pride festival next week would mean “allowing people trying to silence us to win.”
     “And we can’t allow that to happen,” Fallarino said.
     “I’ll be there,” the spokesman added.
     Fallarino described plans for an “increased police presence” and increased security guards for the June 26 parade. Historically, millions are drawn every year to the colorful march, which begins at noon along Fifth Avenue and 36th Street, then hooks west to end on Christopher Street, the gay mecca of Greenwich Village.
     New Yorkers in the gay community vowed to keep the festivities going even after 29-year-old Omar Mateen opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., where he was said to be a regular.
     Mateen killed 49 people Sunday, and died himself in a firefight with police, making it the largest mass shooting in U.S. history.
     The city of Orlando listed the names and ages of the victims on its website Thursday, offering “heartfelt condolences,” and adding that the “city is with you and will continue to be with you as you deal with this unimaginable tragedy.”
     The gay community continues to reel from the devastation. “As we all continue to process the terrible act of violence that struck the Orlando LGBT community, we wanted to take a moment to let you all know what is happening at NYC Pride to ensure the safety of millions of people who will attend our events over the next two weeks,” said New York City Pride co-chairs Maryanne Roberto Fine and David Studinski in a letter on its website.
     “All events will continue to go on as scheduled,” they wrote. “The reason for this is simple: we must never let those who wish to silence us win.”
     Fallarino was mum on whether there would be vigils or tributes to the victims at the march, though scuttlebutt in the community has it that survivors of the attacks will be in attendance.
     At least one gay activist on Manhattan voiced indecision Friday about attending next Sunday’s parade.
     “This is a strange and scary year,” said Bill Dobbs, an authority in the community and legal affairs throughout the city who has marched in at least a dozen Pride festivals throughout the years.
     Citing the presidential race, and the “killings and carnage in Orlando,” Dobbs said: “It’s not clear yet what’s in the future.”
     “There’s some people who just want to go about their lives and refuse to cave in to fear, and there are others who want to work on gun control … that would protect LGBT people from discrimination,” he added.
     Dobbs also noted that the shootings in Orlando switched the focus within the LGBT community from pushing for federal anti-discrimination legislation and “derailed the No. 1 item” toward gun control.
     The city’s Pride organization said it has been “in communication with the NYPD and our private security team” to “adjust our existing security protocols in light of the Orlando attacks.”
     The group added that they will be doing “everything we can to keep everyone involved with NYC Pride safe.” They urged sympathy for the victims and their families: “hug your friends and family, and keep the spirit of those community members we lost today in your hearts.”
     On Thursday, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden flew to the nightclub, bearing bouquets of flowers and laying wreaths in honor of those killed in the attacks.
     “He’ll be standing with the citizens of Orlando during this difficult time, during this path to recovery,” the president’s Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz told the media Thursday while on board Air Force One en route to Orlando. “Make no mistake about it, this was a horrific attack, one filled with hate.
     “The victims who were killed were enjoying a fun Saturday night out, singing and dancing, and suddenly were taken from us. And even if you didn’t know anyone personally, this can still be a very painful time. And that’s why the president and vice president wanted to be there.”
     Meanwhile, the Senate grapples over gun-control proposals.
     A 15-hour filibuster on the Senate floor in Washington, D.C., ended Thursday over opposing proposals to tighten gun-control laws and background checks.
     The presidential hopefuls have also chimed in.
     Hillary Clinton, a former first lady, New York senator and secretary of state, denounced the attacks and took a break from politics during a rally in Ohio on Thursday.
     “Today is not a day for politics,” she said. “Another act of terrorism in a place no one expected. A madman filled with hate, with guns in his hands and just a horrible sense of vengeance and vindictiveness in his heart, apparently consumed by rage against LGBT Americans — and by extension, the openness and diversity that defines our American way of life.”
     Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump issued a more watered-down response: “If I get in [the White House] it’s going to change, and it’s going to change quickly. We’re going from total incompetence to just the opposite, believe me.”
     Sen. John McCain, himself a former presidential hopeful, meanwhile backtracked from comments in which he called the Orlando shooting a terrorist attack and Obama’s fault.
     “I misspoke,” McCain said. “I did not mean to imply that the president was personably responsible.
     But Arizona Republican stood firm to his convictions and criticisms of the president’s “national-security decisions.”
     “As I have said, President Obama’s decision to completely withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq in 2001 led to the rise of ISIL,” McCain said, using a common abbreviation for the Islamic State group.
     McCain said that decision led to the terror attacks in Paris, Brussels, San Bernardino and Orlando.
     The Paris attacks were carried out by three suicide bombers and shooters that claimed 130 and injured another 368. A series of suicide bombers killed 32 in the March 2016 attack in Brussels. Last December, 14 were killed in a shoot-out involving a married couple in San Bernardino.
     All pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
     U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton from Massachusetts called for “love and support” and “give some solace to those most closely impacted by the horrific shooting.” He added: “Fear and ignorance will never replace our commitment to fundamental American values, including that of equality.”
     New York City, meanwhile, stood behind the victims in Orlando and lit up the Empire State Building with rainbow colors on the day of the attacks.
     A candlelight vigil was held earlier this week at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar considered to be the birthplace of the gay rights movement after a raid by law enforcement spurred riots in 1969.

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