LGBT community 'terrified' but defiant after Orlando, local threat
Possible attack at L.A.'s Pride event meant extra security, extra resolution
With the music and the costumes, the thongs and the flags, the L.A. Pride Parade looks like the happiest place on the planet. But as he hands out goodies to the crowd, Trey Baldwin says it's hard to smile and wave when you just heard about what happened in Florida, and what could have happened in L.A.
"It doesn't feel the same and I feel weird being here, honestly," Baldwin says as he walks. "It's kind of scary."
Scary, because Santa Monica police may have prevented a mass attack they say was unrelated to the mass shooting in Orlando, Fla., in which 50 people were killed and dozens more injured at a gay nightclub.
- Heavily armed man was headed to L.A. gay pride event
- Orlando shooting victims names, stories begin to be released
- Orlando nightclub attack: 50 dead, gunman had been investigated for terror links
Early Sunday morning, several kilometres from the L.A. Pride Parade route, Santa Monica police received a call about a suspected prowler. When they searched his car, they found guns, ammo, and possible explosives.
Before the first float rolled down Santa Monica Boulevard, extra uniformed and plain-clothes police were called in, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti addressed the crowd.
Once the parade started snaking down the boulevard, there was little visible pall over the performers or the enthusiastic crowd, but the attack was never far from their minds.
Alejandro Contreras just came back from clubbing in Florida. He wore a T-shirt with "Miami" written in big bold letters as a way to connect with the victims.
Across the U.S., LGBT communities gathered to mourn. And many are worried this won't be the last attack.
The gay rights landmark Stonewall Gay Inn, and the popular Hollywood gay nightclub Abbey have added extra security. In Canada, the executive director of Pride Toronto says he's already thinking of better ways to protect this summer's crowd.
"Tomorrow morning we're meeting with police, we're meeting with the RCMP," says Mathieu Chantelois, "and we're going to look again at our plan and see how we can make it more solid."
Still, many in the LGBT community feel they've always faced the threat of violence. For Los Angeles resident Jamie Phillips, who brought his daughter to the Pride parade, Orlando changes nothing.
"Terrorism shouldn't affect you," Phillips says. "If you change your life then they win."
Russ Knight, who brought his two sons to march with him, agrees.
Actor Jim Rash, best known for his role as Dean Pelton on the sitcom Community, is a regular supporter of L.A.'s Pride parade. He says this year it was even more important for all communities — not just those who are LGBT — to rally together.
"I think the best thing we can do is to communicate and try to make the voice of love and support and acceptance louder than the voice of hate," Rash says.
Aubrey Sassoon leads a float of students from her school down the boulevard, chanting "U-C-L-A!"
Sasson says in the wake of Orlando and the possible L.A. attack, she's "terrified."
But that's what makes parades like this one even more important.
"We can't just always continually be in hiding," Sassoon said. "We have to say we are here, we are present, we are beautiful, we are wonderful, we are strong, we are powerful."
"And the best place to be is out here right now being in support of what we do want instead of being scared of what we don't want," Proffit says "I was out all night last night, I will be out all night tonight. Bring it on!"
A float goes by bearing a truckload of half-naked dancers. One of them holds up a hand-written a sign saying "Stand With Orlando."
The spirit here, in one word: defiant.