Pride Parades: U.S. Cities Mark Events Amid Tight Security

CNN/ Newswire | 6/27/2016, 8:07 a.m.
Fresh memories of a mass shooting in a gay nightclub loomed large over LGBT pride celebrations nationwide Sunday, two weeks ...
New York Governor Cuomo marches in the 2016 NYC Pride Parade with Hillary Clinton (June 26, 2016)

By Emanuella Grinberg and Faith Karimi


(CNN) -- Fresh memories of a mass shooting in a gay nightclub loomed large over LGBT pride celebrations nationwide Sunday, two weeks to the day after a gunman killed 49 people in Florida.

Millions gathered in major American cities for annual celebrations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.

This time last year, parade-goers celebrated a major milestone with the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage.

This year, heightened security measures and tributes to the 49 victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando marked celebrations.

Despite the somber undercurrent, the spirit of jubilation prevailed throughout pride events, embodied by the multi-generational crowds awash in rainbows.

Even if the tone of events was muted, supporters said they took on a special meaning.

"I think it is an act of defiance on one level, to come out and say, 'We stand by our values: inclusion and love and tolerance,' " New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told CNN on Sunday.

"There's a somber feeling obviously, and there's pain over what happened in Orlando, but the answer is not to run and hide. The answer is to stand up boldly, and that's what New York City is doing today."

Extra security

With the shooting in mind, law enforcement agencies across the country took additional steps to ensure security.

More than 20,000 people were expected to participate in New York's pride celebration, including Hillary Clinton. The NYPD expected the crowd of parade-goers to exceed last year's estimated size of 1.6 million, New York Police Chief of Patrol Carlos Gomez said.

Total police presence was increased by about 25% over 2015, NYPD Chief of Department James O'Neill said without providing specific numbers.

The increased police presence was evident along the parade route from midtown Manhattan to Greenwich Village past Stonewall Inn, which President Obama recently named as the first national monument to LGBT rights. Thousand of uniformed and plain-clothed officers stood watch along the parade route and from rooftops, Gomez said.

Helicopters were deployed along with bomb-sniffing canines as a network of cameras monitored events in adjoining areas, Gomez said.

Additional community emergency response teams carrying heavy weapons and counterterrorism personnel equipped with radiation detection devices were posted along the route, he said.

"We have greatly increased counterterrorism efforts to act as a visible deterrence as well as a quick response capability," Gomez said.

Extra officers and private security guards watched over festivities in Chicago, where police took the rare step of keeping reporters and photographers from crossing parade barricades, according to CNN affiliate WBBM.

In San Francisco, for the first time, this year's Pride Fest included a security checkpoint screening at every entrance, according to CNN affiliate KGO.

"Our hearts are with Orlando. We think of them every day," San Francisco resident Cory Vaughn told the affiliate. "We have metal detectors, we're all being safe, but we're still looking over our shoulders."

Nationwide events

Amid the tributes and enhanced security, a mix of jubilation and reverence permeated celebrations worldwide.