WILTON MANORS (CBSMiami) — Given the official title of the “Second Gayest City in America,” Wilton Manors kicked off their annual gay pride parade with music, festivities and solidarity for the tragedy in Orlando.
“The parade, the floats, all the colors,” said Melissa Collepo. “Everyone’s being happy, everyone’s being crazy and just having a good time.”
However, this year’s Stonewall Parade is not just about dancing and partying. It’s a much different tone for the Wilton Manors community, 200 miles south of central Florida, as they stand strong for Orlando.
“I think if we stay away then these other people win,” said attendee Jonathan Benz. “And we can’t allow them to change our way of life. It’s important that we stand strong and stand with our community.”
At the Stonewall Inn in New York City, back in June 1969, the gay community banned together to stop the harassment they were experiencing from the NYPD. The ensuing Stonewall riots are widely considered the birthplace of the LGBT liberation movement.
“I think it’s important to be out here to show support for Orlando,” said Sam Hood, who lives in Ft. Lauderdale. “I grew up in Indiana where there was a lot of ignorance and bigotry. I was afraid to hold my boyfriend’s hand walking down the street. In school, you were being called names. And now, you think that should be part of the past. But it’s not.”
The festival started Saturday, June 18th, at 11 a.m. with the parade later in the afternoon, going down Wilton Manors Drive.
Parade-goers all noticed one distinct difference this year.
“I think the thing that’s different this year is that there’s a lot more law enforcement,” said Rick Ryan. “You can see police cars, motorcycles. We haven’t seen this in the past. I’ve been here for 10 years. I’ve attended different parades and different pride ceremonies.”
Law enforcement, that once may have felt like an enemy of the LGBT community, stood side by side the crowd offering their protection and solidarity.
“It’s not only the Wilton Manors Police Department, but the Broward Sheriff’s Office, the Ft. Lauderdale Police Department, Sunrise Police Department, Margate PD, Light House Point,” said Ofc. Jennifer Bickhardt of the Wilton Manors Police Dept.