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Thousands line streets for St. Pete Pride Parade

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Posted at 11:30 PM, Jun 25, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-26 11:58:50-04

Thousands lined the streets of downtown St. Pete Saturday night for Florida's largest LGBT celebration. 

 

The pride parade drew extra security in wake of the mass shooting in Orlando just two weeks ago at Pulse Night Club.  Many gathered are hoping the event marks the start of bringing back happiness after the hurt.

The celebration stretched for blocks in downtown St. Pete.  The pride parade is an important tradition in the community.

"The reason why we do what we do is because we're proud of who we are and we should be.  Every person should be proud of who they are, regardless," said Timothy Raff, parade participant.

While the LGBT community is celebrating a lot of victories in the movement for equality and acceptance, the pride parade was full of reminders of the harm hate can do.  Dozens of posters and pictures were displaying the images of the Pulse night club victims.

"We want to remember the lives lost--the 102 people who can't be here, for sure 49 of them, who will never be able to celebrate a pride again.  But we'll be able to continue on in their names and we want to follow that with all the progress we've made in our community and we can all come together," said Eric Skains, St. Pete Pride president.

With the Orlando massacre still so fresh in the minds of many, security remains a concern.  That's why hundreds of local, state, and federal law enforcement officers were out in full force during the pride parade.

"I was a little cautious, and wasn't sure I was going to come, but said I can't do that. I need to still celebrate," said parade goer Confetti Cashmere.

Those partying this weekend, hope their joy spreads, leading to a greater tolerance by all.

"Just more acceptance and love.  We all bleed the same regardless of what your gender is, what your sexual preference is, what your color is.  We all underneath it all are the same," said Raff.

St. Pete Pride continues with a festival Sunday.