A gay pride rainbow flag. Photo by Ludovic Bertron via Wikimedia Commons
A gay pride rainbow flag. Photo by Ludovic Bertron via Wikimedia Commons

Attendance at Sunday’s 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 to 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.

Classen said he was “devastated” when he learned of the mass shooting in Florida and “obviously concerned” when he heard about the arrest of a man in Santa Monica who police said told an officer about “wanting to harm 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.

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 explain 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.

–City News Service

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