Wilton Manors Increases Security Ahead Of Annual Gay Pride Parade

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WILTON MANORS (CBSMiami) — Wilton Manors Police and city officials are taking additional safety and security precautions in anticipation of the 17th annual Stonewall Parade and Street Festival.

Residents and visitors of Wilton Manors won’t be deterred by Sunday’s shooting in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub.

“They’re not going to stop us. They’re not going to stop us. We’re going to keep on coming, baby,” said Mike Burke.

The city expects 40,000 people for Saturday’s event. Security is a top priority.

“We have been discussing increased security options and plans for the past six months,” said WMPD Police Chief Paul O’Connell. “Following the Orlando shooting last weekend, we have received an outpouring of support from various law enforcement agencies and will be partnering with many of them for extra manpower to significantly increase security throughout the Stonewall Festival.”

The Wilton Manors Police Department has been preparing for this event since January. But after the deadly shooting that targeted Americans based on their sexuality, other agencies have offered assistants.

Extra cameras, uniformed officers and undercover police will patrol the events. Any reported threats are being met head on.

“Certainly we took that information from those residents. We investigated it and we have communicated it with numerous law enforcement agencies that have partnered with us for this weekend and we’re ready,” said WMPD Commander Gary Blocker.

Parade-goers are aware of the situation and security measures but there’s no way they were going to miss this party.

“My daughters asked us not to go to Gay Pride this week. They’re afraid for us and we said we’re going. We have to be represented, we have to be there,” Tom Holland said.

The annual parade and festival commemorates the 1969 Stonewall Riots, which were a series of demonstrations in New York led by members of the LGBT community. It followed a police raid at the Stonewall Inn, located in the Greenwich Village neighborhood in Manhattan on June 28, 1969.

The riots are considered one of the most important events in the gay liberation movement and in the fight for equality in the U.S.

Saturday’s festival kicks off at 11 a.m. at Hagen Park, featuring bounce houses, face-painting and live music.

At 3 p.m., the street festival and marketplace will open up along Wilton Drive extending from Five Points at N.E. 26th Street to N.E. 20th Street, just north of Fort Lauderdale High School.

Three hours later, the Stonewall Parade will travel down the north side of Wilton Drive.

“Hate will not win,” said Wilton Manors Mayor Gary Resnick. “Love and equality will, and that is what Stonewall is all about.”

Festival organizers will honor the 49 individuals who lost their lives in the Orlando massacre at the main stage.

“The City of Wilton Manors is a strong, resilient community that will continue to be a steadfast leader for the LGBTQ community and equality for all,” said Mayor Resnick. “We will hold our heads high, continue to remember those we lost in this unthinkable tragedy and work toward a brighter future that eliminates hatred and fear.”

With a large percentage of the population identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, Wilton Manors has been recognized nationally and internationally as one of the most progressive places to live, work and play and proudly considers itself the “Second Gayest City in America.”

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