June 15, 2016 at 1:59 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Capital Pride organizers report increased attendance
Orlando, gay news, Washington Blade

Capital Pride Festival attendees observe a moment of silence on Sunday. (Blade photo by Hugh Clarke)

Although the atmosphere at D.C.’s Capital Pride Festival on Sunday was subdued following the shooting rampage at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., earlier in the day that claimed the lives of 49 people, the overall attendance at the annual festival was greater than in past years, according to Capital Pride officials.

Despite hot and humid weather, the section of Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. between 3rd and 7th Street reserved for the festival was packed with people who circulated around the more than 200 booths set up by LGBT organizations and LGBT-friendly businesses and government agencies.

“Our attendance did not decline. If anything, it increased,” said Bernie Delia, Capital Pride’s president. “I believe that the tragedy in Orlando strengthened the resolve of the members of the LGBT community to come together to show support and unity in the face of unspeakable tragedy and horror,” he said.

“We have usually estimated the number to be about 250,000,” said Delia. “We likely went to 275,000 over the course of the nine hours we were there.”

As if the shooting by lone gunman Omar Mateen in Orlando were not enough, news media outlets on Sunday morning reported that police in Los Angeles arrested a man whose car was packed with firearms and a container of explosive chemicals and who said he planned to attend the L.A. Pride parade in West Hollywood.

Authorities have since said the arrested man, 20-year-old James Wesley Howell, had no connection to the Orlando incident. But law enforcement officials say they have yet to determine what Howell planned to do with the weapons and the container of an explosive chemical found in his car.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and District Police Chief Cathy Lanier announced that the city had stepped up security at the D.C. festival and at local LGBT clubs as an extra precaution, even though no credible threat existed to indicate the festival or other LGBT venues were in danger.

“Today, as always, we will not be deterred by hate as we gather to celebrate love,” Bowser said on Sunday.

As the Capital Pride Festival’s main stage near the U.S. Capitol was opened for a full day of entertainment, Delia asked the crowd to observe a moment of silence to commemorate those who lost their lives in the Orlando shooting incident.

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington then sang the National Anthem and dedicated its performance of subsequent songs to the Orlando shooting victims.

Similar to past years, dozens of LGBT community groups and supportive businesses, large and small, marched or rode in floats in the Capital Pride Parade on Saturday, June 11, and set up booths to promote their message or products at the festival on Sunday.

Participating in the parade this year were contingents from eight foreign embassies, including those from Canada, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Iceland.

Among the sports-related parade contingents was the Washington Capitals National Hockey League team led by their star goal tender Braden Holtby.

Gay Emmy Award-winning actor and comedian Leslie Jordan served as the parade’s grand marshal.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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