NEW YORK: Hundreds of thousands of people were expected to pour onto the streets of New York Sunday to celebrate one of the city’s largest Gay Pride marches and honor the 49 people killed in the Orlando nightclub massacre.
Safeguarded by hundreds of police, participants from hundreds of groups are expected to take part in the march down Fifth Avenue from 36th Street and culminating in Greenwich Village.
The parade was to begin at noon (1600 GMT) following a moment’s silence to honor 49 people who were killed and the dozens more who were injured in the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando on June 12.
New York considers itself the beacon of gay rights around the world and Mayor Bill de Blasio had urged Americans across the country to take part in Sunday’s march alongside city officials after the Orlando massacre.
This year’s march falls on the first anniversary of the US Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage across the country and organizers are hoping to draw a larger crowd than last year.
“I think it’s very important that people come out to the parade to show their pride in what we’ve done in this city,” de Blasio said in an interview with local CBS radio station 1010 WINS. “Rest assured, we think this is going to be an extraordinary weekend for New York City and people should know they’re being protected.”
Two days before the march, President Barack Obama designated the Stonewall Inn, a bar in Greenwich Village, and its immediate vicinity the first LGBT national monument in the United States.
The Stonewall Inn is considered the birthplace of America’s gay rights movement as the site of protests in 1969 following a police crackdown of laws banning the sale of alcohol to gays.
It was also the site of an emotional candle-lit vigil in the wake of the Orlando shooting.
Among the groups taking part in Sunday’s march is Gays Against Guns, set up in New York to campaign for gun control legislation in the wake of the Orlando massacre.
“We are in mourning and we are outraged over the massacre that happened in Orlando,” member Tim Murphy told Agence France-Presse on the eve of the march.
“The LGBT community… has a long history of organizing and activism for HIV Aids, for marriage equality and we want to bring some of that leverage and some of that pressure to bear on the pre-existing gun rights movement. Because it hits us very close to home this time.”
New York already has some of the toughest gun laws in the country. It outlawed the sale of assault weapons after the 2012 killing of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in neighboring Connecticut.
“How many more of us — that’s gays, straight, people in general, are going to be shot down this way?” said fellow member Mari Gustafson. AFP