Gay Pride Events Festive But Some Concerned After Orlando – NBCNews.com

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CHICAGO — The music was thumping and crowds were dancing Saturday at gay pride events around the U.S., with some revelers saying the partying was proof that people won’t give in to fear after last weekend’s attack at a gay nightclub in Florida.

Festivals and parades went ahead 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.

At Chicago Pride Fest, security staff meticulously checked bags, unzipping each and every pocket, and extra police patrolled on foot in a highly visible presence.

The annual two-day street festival in the Boystown neighborhood draws thousands of revelers and serves as a warmup to Chicago’s even bigger Pride Parade the following weekend.

Attorney Kavita Puri said that after Orlando, the Chicago event took on even more importance.

“I wouldn’t call it defiance,” she said. “I wouldn’t call it perseverance. I would call it just living your life and not being scared to live your life.”

By noon, a D.J. had already cranked the music to ear-splitting volume, energizing a crowd that included young clubbers, families pushing kids in strollers, and retirees. The only outward sign of the Orlando attack was a makeshift memorial of flowers, rainbow flags and candles clustered on a street corner a few blocks away.

The attack was on Cheryl Hora’s mind. The school bus driver from suburban Rolling Meadows, Illinois, said her son, a drag performer, had done a show at Pulse in October and has a close friend who lost a cousin in the attack. Her son was performing Saturday at the Chicago festival, and Hora — wearing a button with the words “I love my gay son” — said it was important for her to turn up and cheer him on.

“We’re just down here to support him,” she said. “We thoroughly believe in what he’s doing and thoroughly believe in his happiness.”

In New Orleans, Frank Bonner and Pedro Egui wore matching American flag tank tops as they stood with their arms around each other outside a bar called the Phoenix where the city’s pride parade would pass.

Bonner and Egui both had Orlando on their mind.

“I never imagined this,” said Bonner. “I have many friends in Orlando. I didn’t lose any. But I’m…” he shook his head and his voice trailed off.

“It’s really hit me hard,” said Equi, who said he lost a partner to suicide a couple of years ago. “It’s like all the grieving is sort of seen again,” he said. “So I’m happy to be here to celebrate life and celebrate all of us.”

Reminders of the nightclub shooting were inescapable. One bar near the Phoenix had pasted the logo of the Pulse over its door. In the French Quarter, rainbow-flags and bunting were everywhere but over the door to one lounge there was an image of a black mourning ribbon next to a rainbow-hued one.

Local sheriff’s deputies were posted outside the Phoenix. And in the French Quarter, a strong police presence was evident.

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