Gay Pride prouder and louder after Orlando attacks

By AFP   June 18, 2016 | 11:24 pm PT
Tens of thousands of Europeans paid tribute in Gay Pride marches on Saturday to the 49 people massacred in a gay nightclub in Orlando last weekend in a defiantly festive atmosphere.

At the largest, Vienna's "Rainbow Parade" involving around 130,000 people according to organizers, a minute's silence was held during the 20th annual anything-goes parade.

Leading the march was a black-clad group called "Victims of Hate Crimes – Marching for those who can't", holding a rope around a space where normally a float full of dancers would be.

The "ghost float" represented "those lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender and inter-sex people who lost their lives in Orlando and who can't be marching with us", organizers said.

The deadliest mass shooting in US history saw lone gunman Omar Mateen murder 49 people in the Pulse nightclub in the early hours of Sunday morning with a legally purchased assault rifle and pistol.

Mateen was killed when police stormed the club. Officials say he pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group. But witnesses said he had frequented Pulse in the past and used gay dating apps.

Not scared

Lui Fidelsberger, co-head of the Vienna Homosexual Initiative (HOSI), Austria's oldest lesbian and gay organization, said the best answer was to be even louder and prouder.

"The response must be more visibility and pride. And so despite the great sadness... this year's Rainbow Parade will again celebrate loudly and stridently a big festival of diversity," Fidelsberger said.

Security in the Austrian capital was tighter, however, with several hundred police on duty -- more than last year because of the Orlando attacks, police spokesman Roman Hahslinger told AFP.

In Italy, tens of thousands of people took part in Gay Pride events nationwide, with 30,000 in Florence, 5,000 in Genoa and thousands more in Palermo, Treviso and Varese, organizers said.

In Genoa, the first procession float sported a large rainbow flag crossed with a black banner reading: "We are Orlando".

The Palermo event's organizer, Massimo Milani, appeared at the parade in a white wedding dress splattered in fake blood and with a ribbon reading: "We will survive".

In Lisbon, a parade of more than 5,000 people paid tribute to the Orlando victims, according to organizers, but with pumping music and extravagant costumes they still managed to have fun.

A large black banner at the head of the procession in the Portuguese capital carried the photos of the victims in Florida.

"This massacre has affected us all," said gay rights campaigner Paulo Corte Real. "We are here to show our strength and to refuse all this hatred that we are still confronted with."

Around 2,000 revelers, police said, took part in a Gay Pride event in Metz in eastern France. Local reports said a memorial was set up with the inscription "Solidarity with Orlando".

Around the same number gathered in Vilnius while around 1,000 held a minute's silence at the Soviet Army monument in downtown Sofia, waving flags, some of them with the #weareorlando hashtag.

The Bulgarian crowd chanted "Stop Homophobia!" and "Happy Pride!" and was addressed by several foreign ambassadors, although numbers were significantly smaller than last year.

"There are fewer people this year but I would like to think that it's the scorching heat that is to blame and not fear after the Orlando tragedy," said participant Ria Naydenova, 24.

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