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After Orlando Massacre, Wilton Manors Stonewall Festival Beefing Up Security

Tensions are high in Wilton Manors after the massacre of 50 clubgoers at a gay nightclub in Orlando early Sunday morning. People from the city of 12,000 have donated blood, signed a petition banning assault weapons, and donated to Equality Florida, a nonprofit collecting money for victims and their families. Sunday evening, the city’s pride center held a heartfelt, candlelit vigil — and the pride flag has been lowered to half-staff.

Now the city is finalizing plans for this Saturday's annual Stonewall Parade and Festival, which usually attracts 20,000 to 30,000 people along Wilton Drive. Folks are nervous the hate and homophobia that fueled the Orlando attack may return.

"It just happened and emotions are running high," event spokesperson Cliff Dunn tells New Times.

City cops are working with the Broward Sheriff's Office, the FBI, and other law enforcement agencies to ensure everyone's safety. Specifics were not available at press time, but there's likely to be more law enforcement — including undercover — for the event. 

Adds Dunn: "It will be a catharsis for people. People will be able to share their grief together."

The Wilton Manors Stonewall Parade and Street Festival has been taking place in the city every June for 17 years. Dunn explained that it is separate from the city's Pride Festival, which takes place in April, but says it is a “community-wide event celebrating diversity.” This year, however, he says the event will also highlight “the same grief and sadness after this terrible mass murder in Orlando.”

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At Saturday's event, vendors, street performers, musicians, food trucks, and nonprofit organizations will line Wilton Drive. A main stage at NE 64th Avenue will feature different entertainment throughout the day.

"In some ways, I think that this is an opportunity to come together to be able to recognize and recollect on the tragedy that took place this weekend," Dunn says.

The event is held in honor of the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City, when members of the gay community fought back against police raids at Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village. Many consider it to be the turning point in the gay civil rights movement.

A message and email to Wilton Manors Mayor Gary Resnick was not immediately returned, but we will update this post when he replies. He said in a statement earlier today: “Our community is deeply saddened by this deathly act of hatred and our thoughts and prayers remain with the victims, their friends and family members... Now is a time for our community and our neighboring communities to band together in unity.”

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