The roar of the Twin Cities Pride parade fell silent as a group dressed in white passed. Numbering in the dozens, they held aloft signs bearing the names and faces of the 49 victims killed two weeks ago at a gay nightclub in Orlando.
Amid the fresh memories of the mass shooting, carried out by a gunman who professed allegiance to Islamic terrorist ideology, there was strength and togetherness. Under the watch of bolstered police protection in downtown Minneapolis, the love and support for Orlando was clear Sunday afternoon in banners, marquees, balloons and T-shirts — but most clearly through unspoken unity. There was little contrast in the jubilant mood of last year, when participants celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to legalize same-sex marriage — but an air of resolve was unmistakable.
“We are a resilient community,” said Amy Ariel of St. Paul. “Things have been happening to us forever. We are strong, and we are still here.”
“We would have been here regardless,” said Ariel’s wife, Liddy Rich. “It’s important to come together.”
In the wake of the shooting, officials promised an “unprecedented” level of police presence for Twin Cities Pride festivities in and near downtowns. Several police vehicles and a few uniformed officers on bike and on foot led the parade upon its late-morning rollout, with Loring Park as its destination. Parade-goers noticed.
“From the moment we got off the highway, we saw lot of [police] walking around,” said Shanteeze Brown of St. Paul.
Ariel said she saw and welcomed more interaction between cops and the convivial crowd.
“Police were wishing people ‘Happy Pride,’ ” she said. “I haven’t experienced that before.”
In addition to police officers, a noticeable amount of private security guards worked the parade, shooing spectators from the skyway bridges over Hennepin Avenue.
Twin Cities Pride organizers estimated 175,000 people attended the parade, with 400,000 participating in all festivities — a decline from last year’s attendance of at least 450,000. The heat advisory and Saturday’s stormy forecast may have played a part, they said.
As somber as the crowd grew out of respect for the Orlando victims, it was conversely as raucous when the Caravan of Love passed.
Members of the caravan — representing LGBT Muslims and their allies against homophobia — held signs that read “Queer Muslim Proud” and “Islam taught me love.” It was the first time the group, formed immediately in the wake of the Orlando shooting, marched in the parade.
For Nasreen Mohamed, a Muslim who identifies as queer and gender nonconforming, marching in the parade felt like a historic moment.
“Usually I miss Pride, but this year felt important to march and to be there,” Mohamed said. “In terms of Orlando, in terms of what’s happening in the presidential election, in terms of the wave of Islamophobia that’s been happening — it’s important to have our presence felt.”
Aaneesah Amatullah, who did not march with the group, said her 11-year-old son first spotted the Caravan of Love.
“I jumped up, of course, and I just felt — like when everyone noticed them, too and the crowd just roared, and seeing everyone’s reaction to seeing them — was super prideful,” said Amatullah, who came out to her family in her late 30s. “It set a whole new precedent on how people view us.”