Thousands turn out for weekend gay pride events


DENVER (AP) — People in wheelchairs, walking on stilts and riding rainbow-decorated motorcycles turned out for gay pride events over the weekend, including people on parade in Denver carrying posters of the names or faces of the victims who died in last weekend’s attack on a gay nightclub in Florida.

About 2,000 people took part in Denver’s PrideFest parade through town to Civic Center Park as hundreds of people lined sidewalks.

Security was tight at events over the weekend. Authorities set up security fences, bag checks, and police rode Segway scooters and walked with bomb-sniffing dogs.

No serious problems were reported at gay pride events across the country.

Festivals and parades went ahead Saturday under increased security in cities such as Chicago, Columbus, Ohio; and Providence, Rhode Island, a week after a gunman fired on a crowd at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. The attack left 49 people dead, and dozens injured.

Parades were also held in New Orleans and Syracuse, New York, and a beach party was planned in California.

A look at events held over the weekend:

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Ron Freeny, a Vietnam veteran, said he drove to Denver from Albuquerque, New Mexico, for Sunday’s parade.

Freeney said he was forced to resign as a Navy lieutenant commander in 1978 after someone told military officials that he was gay. The military said he could resign or get court-martialed.

“The country has made a lot of strides since then, but there are still some people in the military that have a dislike for our kind,” he said.

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At the 40th annual Rhode Island PrideFest, extra police and fire personnel patrolled on foot.

The mood was festive, with several people donning capes made from rainbow flags. Some carried signs that read: “We stand with Orlando.”

Shay Pimentel, who has volunteered at PrideFest for three years, said this year’s event was calm. There’s more security, and there are fewer attendees, she said.

“I think some people might be scared with everything’s that happened,” Pimentel said.

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In Syracuse, thousands of people attended a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender pride parade and festival in upstate New York on Saturday. Marchers with colorful face paint, glitter and rainbow capes marched through the streets under a heavy police presence.

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In New Orleans, more than a hundred people led off a gay pride parade holding aloft hand-scrawled posters for LGBT rights and pictures of the Orlando nightclub victims pasted on pieces of colored paper. The parade kicked off Saturday night in the French Quarter. It’s the highlight of a weekend of festivities tempered by sadness over the Orlando shootings.

Participants said they are celebrating the progress of the gay rights movement while honoring and mourning the victims.

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Patrick Mulligan, who was wearing a rainbow hula skirt, said he has lived in Denver all of his life, but never attended a PrideFest parade, a tradition in the city for 40 years. He said he is not gay, but he wanted to show that hate and fear will not define him.

“After Orlando, I think everyone needs to show support,” he said.

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