MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Pride Parade stepped off at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 12th -- about 12 hours after a gunman opened fire at the popular Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. At least 50 people were killed, and 53 others were hurt. Milwaukee was one of many cities across the country that hosted gay pride events this weekend.
Some in Milwaukee were just learning of the worst mass shooting in United States history as they made their way to the parade route on Sunday. They said the horrific tragedy in Florida made them feel even more obligated to gather in support and stand in solidarity with those in Orlando.
"It's more important than ever to show our pride and connection as a community," a Milwaukee Pride Parade attendee said.
Anne Kunze took part in the event on the final day of PrideFest Milwaukee. She came to Milwaukee from Madison, but said Sunday her heart was in Orlando.
"I have no words. I have friends in Orlando and in Florida and I have reached out to all of them to make sure they are OK," Kunze said.
Ashley Kozak made her own signs -- borrowing cardboard and markers from businesses along the parade route.
"My heart goes out to all the victims and their families. I can`t imagine," Kozak said.
In the wake of the violence, Sunday's Pride Parade in Milwaukee was a beacon for some.
"It keeps building up. I`m sure I`m getting notifications right now," Creighton Schwark said.
Schwark said he used to live in Orlando, and has many friends there.
"It kind of hits home because I was not very far from Pulse," Schwark said.
The gunman may have targeted the gay nightclub, but the message Sunday in Milwaukee was clear.
"When you live in a county in this one, it`s sad, but you can`t stop. You have to keep fighting. You have to -- that`s what life is all about," Jose Delvalle said.
There was increased security Sunday at Milwaukee PrideFest -- with full metal detection at the admission gates and increased security staffing across all areas for added safety and pace of mind for visitors after the incident Sunday in Orlando.