News of the Orlando shooting trickled slowly through the crowd Sunday as the 28th annual Philly Pride festival got underway.
It added a somber dimension to this otherwise joyous affair.
The headline: A man killed 50 people inside a gay nightclub in Orlando early Sunday morning, making the massacre, according to NPR, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
Naturally, the bloodshed was on the minds of many attending Philadelphia’s signature event for the LGBTQ community.
“It confirmed we had no place on earth we could be, but here,” said Ann Weiss, who was marching with fellow congregants from Beth Am Israel Congregation in Penn Valley, Pennsylvania.
Jo Mason of the Greater Philadelphia Gay Officer Action League said the events in Orlando strengthened his resolve to march, and reminded him of the ongoing struggle for gay equality.
“Pride came out of riots. It came out of oppression. It came out of people telling us we can’t be free,” said Mason. “And it’s a reminder that as far as we’ve come in 47 years we still have a very long way to go.”
Austin Ellis, representing the Whosover Metropolitan Community Church of Philadelphia, marched with a six-foot wooden cross slung over his right shoulder. Attached to it were a rainbow flag and a computer print out that read “In Memory of Pulse Night Club Victims.”
“We just stand here in solidarity with them and for all their families and friends that lost their loved ones. And we just stand here as a church hoping to give them some relief,” Ellis said.
By noon, as the Philly Pride parade wound its way up 7th Street in Center City, some had heard the news and were trying to process it. Others were just catching wind.
“Wow. That’s tragic. That’s real tragic,” said Javonda Regis, who said she’d heard something about a moment of silence as the parade began. “I never knew the details and I had no idea it was a gay bar or a gay club.”
But once she did know, it made her appreciate the meaning and importance of the Philly Pride festival.
“We need more events like this to make awareness and let people know that gay, straight, lesbian, whatever you choose, we’re still human beings. We still yearn for equality just like everyone else,” Regis said.
Philadelphia is just one of many cities holding pride festivals and events this weekend. Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, Indianapolis, Detroit, Brooklyn, and Boston also have events scheduled according to the website GayPrideCalendar.com.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that more thn 50 people had been killed.