Defiant: L.A. Pride Parade Marches as Nation Reels From Orlando Massacre

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After a moment of silence, the Los Angeles Gay Pride Parade marches on as the LGBT community mourns the massacre at an Orlando gay nightclub. Crowds turn out despite police thwarting a potential copycat attack on the parade from a suspect armed with guns, explosives.

Striking a sullen yet defiant tone, thousands lined the streets of West Hollywood for the annual pride parade just hours after a shooter killed 50 people and left dozens more injured at an Orlando gay nightclub.

Revelers turned out despite an arrest made in nearby Santa Monica of a man armed with guns, ammunition and explosives who police say wanted to attack the annual Los Angeles event. Organizers held a moment of silence before the festivities, and there was a heavy law enforcement presence that lined the streets.

The Orlando massacre is the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. And, as the shooter allegedly declared allegiance to ISIS, it marked the worst terrorist attack on American soil since the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks.

"We stand in solidarity with our community and grieve for the victims and families affected by this horrific and senseless act of violence," says Craig Bowers of Christopher Street West, L.A. Pride organizers. The organization held a press conference at the corners of Santa Monica and Crescent Heights Boulevards prior to Sunday's parade. 

“46 years ago, members of the LGBTQ community came out in cities across the country in response to the Stonewall Riots," says Christopher Street West president Chris Classen. "Today, we are heartbroken that so many of our brothers, sisters and allies were lost in this tragic attack. As we remember them today at our moment of silence, we must continue to show our pride, not just today but every day. Our brave founders made this happen to show the world who we are. We will be loud. We will be proud and we will celebrate in honor of all those lost.”

The festival this year bills itself as a "pride and music festival," and features 40 musical acts including tonight's headliner, Carly Rae Jepsen. The year 2016 marks the first that the fest has implemented RFID wristband ticketing, the same technology used for major music festivals like Coachella. Hours are from noon to 11 p.m. on Sunday.

On Saturday evening, lines snaked down the block as attendees waited patiently to be let through metal detectors and onto the festival grounds. Once screened, the area was well-patrolled by City of West Hollywood Sheriff's Department officers.

There are no metal detectors at any of the many crowded bars lining both sides of Santa Monica Boulevard, however. The Abbey, the popular LGBT party destination which was the subject of a recent oral history in The Hollywood Reporter, will be adding security personnel and checking every bag as it enters the premises.

David Cooley, the owner of The Abbey and a prominent figure in Los Angeles' gay community, says the tragedy serves as a chilling reminder of the implicit dangers of the country's lax gun-ownership laws.

“There is still a lot we don’t know about the tragedy in Orlando," Cooley said. "While our thoughts and prayers are with the people in Orlando, we know that thoughts and prayers are not enough. We know that our current gun control system allowed a man to walk into a crowded venue, shoot and kill more than 50 innocent Americans. We need to do more to keep guns away from bad people."

"We need to stay safe and stay proud. No act of terrorism can dampen our Pride," Cooley added.

The City of West Hollywood issued this statement in response to the massacre:

"There are no words that capture the heartbreak we feel today. The tragic shooting massacre last night in Orlando, which took the lives of more than 50 people, is nothing short of horrific. This is a terrible reminder to the LGBT community that, though we’ve achieved so much in our fight for full equality, there is still much work to be done for love to prevail. In West Hollywood today, LA Pride will go on. As we march in the streets today under gray skies, and as we take a moment of silence to grieve together before the parade begins, our hearts will be heavy but our resolve will be strong. Public safety is our number-one priority and the City of West Hollywood is on heightened alert and is working closely with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the Los Angeles County Fire Department, the Los Angeles Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to ensure a safe LA Pride in West Hollywood."

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