“Oh my goodness,” yelled an announcer for New York City’s Pride march. “That is Secretary Clinton! The next president of the United States!”
As Clinton passed the corner of Christopher Street and Bleeker, another announcer asked the crowd to “make some noise if you’re voting for Secretary Clinton”.
Attendees shouted and whooped.
This was not Clinton’s first New York Pride, but while the march was filled with its usual positivity, color and dancing, politics permeated the event. The recent mass shooting in an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, the worst in US history, was on most minds. So was the impending presidential election.
Clinton, who walked with New York City mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife Chirlane McCray, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Reverend Al Sharpton and others, was one of an estimated 32,000 marchers to take part in the parade. Members of her campaign staff walked separately, wearing shirts that read: “Love trumps hate.”
For Luis Lopez-Maldonado, 31, an intern in the city, the presidential election was especially concerning for the LGBT community.
“Gay rights are on the line,” he said. “That’s really hard to think about … if [Donald] Trump wins, we’re gone. Whatever we are, we will not have support. I would be kicked out, even if I was born here and I had degrees.”
His co-worker, Giselle Gonzalez, 18, said voting is important and ignoring a candidate you did not agree with would not make them go away.
It was Gonzalez and Lopez-Maldonado’s first Pride. Last year’s event had an estimated 2.5 million attendees, march director Julian Sanjivan told AMNY. More were expected this year.
For Marian Holmes, 24, a business owner from Long Island, Pride 2016 was still a celebration, but it also had a more serious tone.
“It’s all fun and games and rainbow flags, but there are still people dying,” she said in reference to the attack in Orlando on 12 June, which killed 49 and wounded 53.
Frustration over Congressional inaction on gun control reform since the Orlando attack was evident. Marchers and spectators held signs reading “Gays against guns”. One group carried a giant rainbow banner which read: “Republican hate kills.”
As Senator Charles Schumer of New York walked down Fifth Avenue, a few in the crowd began shouting “pass gun control”.
Last week, both the Senate and the House of Representatives failed to come to a consensus on the subject, despite a 15-hour Senate filibuster led by Connecticut senator Chris Murphy and a 25-hour House sit in led by the civil rights leader John Lewis.
Before the march, De Blasio issued emphatic statements on security at the parade. “You will be safe,” he said. “You will be protected.”
At the march, many expressed concern.
“I don’t want to say I was flooded in fear but I did think about possibilities,” Lopez-Maldonado said, adding that he decided to attend to express his support for the victims of Orlando.
There was a strong police presence, with officers guarding subway entrances and the metal barricades which contained the crowds.
Lopez-Maldonado noted the stark contrast to how things were when the Pride began, after the Stonewall Riots of 1969 in which members of the LGBT community fought back against police raids. The celebration has been held every year since. This week, President Barack Obama declared the area around the Stonewall Inn a national monument.
“It was historic,” said BJ, 65, a schoolteacher from New Jersey, of Obama’s designation. “But even if he hadn’t officially made it, it’s been historic for years.”
Last year’s march came just two days after the historic supreme court decision on marriage equality. Debbie Taylor, 56, an educator, was able to marry her partner of 10 years, Dody Boyer, 53.
“Last year was just happy, happy, happy,” Taylor said while she waited for her wife and friends in front of the Stonewall Inn. “This year will be happy too, but its also got some sadness.”
For Taylor and others, events in Orlando made Pride all the more important.
“I came here for the people from Orlando who couldn’t be here,” said Eddie Montalvo, a 16-year-old high school student from the Bronx. At his first Pride parade with his family and best friend.
Barbara Poma, the owner of Pulse nightclub in Orlando, rode with entertainment manager Neema Bahrami on the lead float. Before the moment of silence which began the parade, the names of the 49 victims were read.
Lopez-Maldonado said he used to live in Florida and go to Pulse.
“I am Latino and I am queer and I’ve been to Pulse,” he said, “so for me that was like, that could have been me.”
“This year was really important that we show our strength,” Taylor said. “That we show that this won’t get us down.”