SEATTLE – Seattle city streets were packed with color Sunday for the 42nd annual Seattle Pride Parade, highlighting a weekend of Pride celebrations throughout the city.
Thousands of people came together Sunday to celebrate equality and love. They lined the streets of downtown, some with heavy hearts after the tragedy in Orlando. Many wore the Seattle Pride sticker that said "We Stand With Orlando."
Scenes from Seattle Pride Parade 2016
PHOTOS: Scenes from Seattle Pride Parade
Andrew Nichols came to Seattle Pride wearing a neon green shirt that matched his sneakers. The Zoot running shoes were a conscious choice on this sunny Sunday. He would be walking the whole parade route after all.
The words “FREE HUGS” were printed across his t-shirt. He went person-to-person along the route, likely hugging hundreds by the time 4th Avenue reached the Seattle Center.
"Free hugs. It's a little intimidating. It's scary and uncomfortable. I'm a mental health therapist. I always tell meyclients to move into the discomfort. I better do if then if I'm asking them to do it,” Nichols said. "Especially with Orlando happening we have to remind people that it's about loving each other and it's not about fear.”
Along the route his path would cross with Caroline Byrd. Byrd, a native of eastern North Carolina, sat on a curb with her friends near Battery and 4th. Like many, she wore a Seattle Pride sticker that said, “We Stand With Orlando.”
"Granted these stickers and posters will never represent the 49 lives that were lost to the entirety of what they actually mean. But it does mean a lot to see that so many people are out here wearing, supporting and passing out these things so people can remember,” Byrd said.
Byrd is a student at a chiropractic school in South Carolina. She said one of her classmates is from Puerto Rico and lost her brother and his partner in the nightclub shooting.
"It was very devastating. We have a small LGBTQ plus community within our school and we all bonded together. We actually ended up raising $5,000 for her to come back and forth from Florida to South Carolina,” she said.
Byrd and her friends came from across the country to take part in Seattle Pride.
"This is more than a celebration," she said. "This is almost like a memorial and for us to be able to bond together and celebrate our love is just another way of giving their life meaning and memory."
There were several moments and floats along the route dedicated to those lost at Pulse Night club earlier this month. One of those included a group carrying a single white rose for each victim and rainbow flags with their names written on it.
The Pride Parade kicked off with much fanfare in downtown Seattle around 11 a.m. Before the parade began, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, who is gay, spoke to the large crowds at Westlake Park, then officiated a gay marriage in front of thousands.
The parade went down Fourth Avenue to Denny Way, then on to Seattle Center for Seattle PrideFest. Seattle PrideFest at Seattle Center lasts until 8 p.m.
Weekend of Pride
Numerous Pride events were held throughout the weekend. Friday night, several Capitol Hill bars and businesses hosted Pride festivities, and the annual Trans Pride Seattle march took place in and around Cal Anderson Park. On Saturday, five blocks of Broadway was shut down for the Capitol Hill Pride Festival and Rally, which featured food booths, vendors and musical performances.
PHOTOS: Seattle Pride weekend
Following the tragedy at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, this year's parade and celebration took on deeper meaning for many participants and organizers.
"Seattle Pride will continue to help our community come together and support one another in this difficult time. Pride is always a month when we remember those in the LGBTQ community who have fought and given their lives in the pursuit of equality for all in this country," said Pride organizers. "Today, more than ever, we are reminded of the need to continue our fight for justice, to stand together, and be proud of the diversity of our community."