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Milwaukee Pridefest Attendees React to Orlando Shootings

Gerardo Mora/Getty Images
A man holds a sign in support of the victims of the terror attack at gay nightclub Pulse on June 12, 2016 in Orlando, Florida.

Authorities say 49 people were killed early Sunday morning when a gunman opened fire at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. At Milwaukee's Pridefest Sunday, the conversations taking place on the Summerfest grounds were sobering and reflective.

CasThiele of Oconomowoc calls the Orlando shootings devastating. “It really hurts that there’s so much hate, that that would happen,” Thiele says.

Thiele is adorned in the rainbow flag, a symbol of the LGBT community and is sporting bright orange hair. She says she plans to respond to the tragedy by just being herself.

“I intend to just be even more flamboyant than I am. This hate crime can’t stop us. We will mourn and be so sad and send all kinds of good feelings to the families of those affected but we’re going to just keep being us,” Thiele says.

Thiele says being openly gay, she sometimes fears for her safety.

Brian Jones of Sheboygan says there have been times in his life when he too has felt afraid. “I do remember what it was like to fear for my life and I would walk home with a rock in my hand from a party or down the streets with bars, people would follow me or called me names. There have been moments when I feared for my safety,” Jones says.

Jones says what makes the Florida shootings particularly alarming is that June is Pride Month.

Another person unnerved by the tragedy is T. Robinson of Milwaukee. He says he has friends in Orlando who have frequented the club.

“It really hurts with me being transgender too and I have friends who live in Orlando. They didn’t go to club but they do attend that club and they thought they might go there but that day they decided not to go and that hit home a little bit,” Robinson says.

Robinson says he’s been to Pridefest several times but has never seen the increased security measures that were in place on Sunday. Several squad cars were parked in front of the main gate and patrons were required to walk through metal detectors.

Julie Behrman of Greenfield is here with her partner. She says she’s grateful that their neighbors seem to be accepting of their relationship.

“Society has changed and where we live, we’re in a safe neighborhood. And our neighbors look at us, maybe they don’t know who we are in our relationship but they know that we’re good neighbors and that we look out for each other,” Behrman says.

Behrman says in response to the Orlando shootings, she plans to open up more about her sexual orientation. She thinks it’s important for people to understand that her relationship is no different than that of a straight couple.

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