WEST HOLLYWOOD — Attendance at the June 12 46th annual LA Pride Parade was “slightly down” from the customary crowd of about 250,000 and security increased in the wake of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Florida, according to the president of the organizing group.
An estimate of the crowd lining Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood was not immediately available, but it was “safe to say” it was less than usual, said Chris Classen, president of Christopher Street West, which organizes the parade.
There were no changes to the parade, which began at 10:45 a.m. at Crescent Heights Boulevard and continued west along Santa Monica Boulevard to La Peer Drive, one block west of Robertson Boulevard, Classen told City News Service.
“We had no intention of canceling any events or altering them, aside from stepping up security,” Classen said.
Additional Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputies, officers from other Los Angeles County law enforcement agencies and FBI agents were deployed along the parade route, according to Classen.
“We pulled on every agency we could from across the county,” Classen said, pointing out there were no arrests or incidents.
A news conference preceded the parade “to show support and call from strength from the community,” Classen said.
Classen said the most prevalent comment he heard from people lining the parade route “was the reason they came out today was to show support for the victims of the Orlando shooting.”
“That has been a catalyst for people coming out and showing we are a united, strong community,” he said.
Mark Frey, who said he has attended or participated in the parade most years since 1989, found it to be a little more somber.”
“I think because of what happened in Orlando people tuned it down a little bit,” said Frey, who marched as part of the group organized by his employer, the integrated managed care consortium Kaiser Permanente.
Frey said he had no second thoughts about participating in the parade because of the Florida mass shooting.
Allie Munnerlyn, a self-described stay-at-home mother from La Habra, said she attended the parade despite her mother advising her not to because of the risk of harm.
“I said to her, ‘When people tell me they’re worried about me or my son Cooper, my comment to them is that I appreciate that concern, but sitting in your chair at home doesn’t make the world safer for people who are marginalized,” Munnerlyn said.
Munnerlyn said she attended the parade as part of her continued effort to support Cooper, who game out as gay in June 2014, and held a sign declaring “Sorry for your pain. U R Loved.”
Classen said he was “devastated” when he learned of the mass shooting in Florida and “obviously concerned” when he heard about the initial report of the arrest of a man in Santa Monica on suspicion of possession of weapons and explosive materials.
Santa Monica Police Department Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks tweeted that the arrestee — 20-year-old Indiana native James Wesley Howell — told a police officer about “wanting to harm the Gay Pride event.”
“I’ve been in close contact with almost every law enforcement agency and I feel very confident in their efforts and abilities to keep us safe,” Classen said.
Seabrooks later wrote on Twitter the man said he wanted to “go to a Gay Pride event.”
The parade has been held every year since 1970, except for 1973 when infighting over crude displays the previous two years left the organizers in disarray. The parade was held in Hollywood until 1979, when it moved to West Hollywood.
The mass shooting in Florida and arrest in Santa Monica “perfectly explains why we do this every year,” Classen said.
“I think it’s important for everyone in the community to come out today and show strength and that we’re not going to back down in the face of fear,” he said.