Attendees of the Washington, D.C. Pride Festival were shaken by the mass shooting at an Orlando club, but they remained defiant.
Many said that loved ones asked them to be extra vigilant around the 41st annual celebration in the nation’s capital in light of the shooting that killed 50 and wounded 53.
“Everybody keeps texting me, my family and friends, telling me to stay safe,” said Renata Maniaci, 29, a holistic health practitioner in D.C.
Gay pride events have been held in June since 1970, a date chosen to commemorate the protests after a police raid at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City. Events were scheduled in more than a dozen U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Detroit and Indianapolis.
The festivals are normally joyful affairs, with colorful costumes and the air of an often-marginalized community claiming public space as its own. But the shooting recast the event in a somber light.
“I struggled with the question about whether I should even be out at a celebration when so many people lost their lives,” said Millie Terri, 32, a member of The D.C. Sisters. “I don’t want the day to be taken by someone who decided to take other people’s lives.”
The father of suspected shooter Omar Mateen told NBC News Sunday morning that his son became angry after seeing two men kissing in public, something he thought may have been related to the shooting.
For some attendees of the Washington festival Sunday, that just underscored their vulnerability.
“This just brings the fact up that we’re still not safe,” said B.J. Schleseuer, 33, a bartender from Fredericksburg. “I’m not really sure what more you can do… unfortunately, it happened in our community, but it could have happened to anyone.”
Terrello Lane, 23, a help desk analyst, said he does not feel safe in Washington. He said people often do not sit next to him on public transit, and he stayed home from the Saturday pride parade.
Others said the shooting made them more aware.
“I think that’s on the mind of every guy who likes a guy or girl who likes a girl in America,” added Emerson Morrow, 19, of Las Cruces, N.M. “It made me think twice about coming to pride events today.”