Gay Pride Celebrations Turn Somber After Orlando Nightclub Massacre

Parades in Los Angeles, Philadelphia took on added meaning

What should have been a celebratory time for gay, lesbian and transgender communities around the world became a time of mourning following the slaughter of at least 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

June is pride month, but parades on Sunday took on a somber tone after the attack on Pulse, where 29-year-old Omar Mateen opened fire in the early morning hours.

Los Angeles had a particular scare, when a heavily armed man with possible explosives was arrested before the pride parade in West Hollywood. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said there did not appear to be any link to the Orlando massacre but that the man said was heading for the parade.  

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Meanwhile, the parades in Los Angeles and Philadelphia began with moments of silence and police increased their presence. Marchers in Philadelphia said the killings gave them new resolve to live their lives openly, without fear.

"It's so sad, and you would think that we'd come further," Haden Reed, an assistant manager at an LGBT bookstore in Philadelphia, told NBC Philadelphia. "But this is just a reminder there's a really long way to go."

Barack Obama says the nightclub shooting in Orlando was an “act of terror” and an “act of hate.”

The rampage during pride month left people across the country stricken and Orlando's gay community in shock, said Bill Manes, an editor of the city’s LGBT newspaper, "Watermark."

"As far as I know, this was not an orchestrated effort," he said. "It's just something that happens when someone wants to be a really bad person."

The shooter's father, Seddique Mir Mateen, told NBC News on Sunday his son apparently was motivated by anger toward gay men rather than religion. He had recently gotten upset when he saw two men kissing in front of his wife and child, the father said.

"They were kissing each other and touching each other and he said, 'Look at that. In front of my son they are doing that,'" the father said. "And then we were in the men's bathroom and men were kissing each other."

President Barack Obama spoke about the deadly shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, calling Pulse more than a night club, but “a place of solidarity, empowerment, where people have come together, to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights.”

Sources told NBC News that Mateen, in a phone call to 911 in the moments before the rampage, swore allegiance to the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. ISIS has reportedly treated gay people brutally, releasing images that seem to show gay men being hurled off buildings and then stoned to death.

At the Stonewall Inn in New York City, a symbol of gay rights after a police raid led to riots in the late 1960s, flowers were left at its entrance before a Sunday evening vigil. The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce in Orlando said it was heartbroken by the senseless attack.

"We mourn for those lost and in need of answers," it said in a statement.

"This only reaffirms and strengthens our commitment to fight for the inclusion and protection of the LGBT community nationwide and around the globe."

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In Toronto, police tweeted that they were reassessing security for all pride events for the month. A candlelight vigil was being planned for downtown Sunday night and Pride Toronto said that as a community it stood united during a painful time.

"What a terrible day," Pride in London tweeted. "But let's remember that #LoveWins and we show our strength by coming together in Pride."

The Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity said it was devastated. It urged others not to rush to assign blame to any individual or group beyond the shooter.

"It is also not lost on us that this horrific tragedy occurred during LGBTQ Pride month, which this year coincides with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, typically a period of peace and intense self-reflection," it said in a statement. "It pains us to see that these periods of joy, celebration, and peace have been marred so violently with such horror."

The Harvey Milk Foundation, created in honor of one of the first openly gay elected officials in the United States, said prayers and love were not enough. Hate continues to cause too much grief, it said.

"As we reach out to comfort the Orlando families, and as we support the courage for the injured to heal, may we also have the strength to address and deal with the roots of hatred and separation that target any minority community with violence, any where in the world," the foundation said.

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