Knoxville’s PrideFest carries on despite Orlando shooting

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Lots of questions have been raised in the Orlando shooting investigation and people in the Knoxville LGBT community are weighing in.

The FBI is looking into if the shooter led a secret gay life and there are questions about his wife’s role in this shooting. Wednesday night’s celebrity bartending event, the kickoff to Knoxville PrideFest, had an enthusiastic crowd. Todd Cramer was serving and he says the tragic shooting in Orlando isn’t going to stop the local LGBT community from celebrating.

Previous story: Security ramped up for Knoxville PrideFest next weekend in wake of Orlando shooting

“We’re not concerned. We’re going to come out and enjoy, by showing love and support that we always do,” said Cramer.

The investigation continues into why Omar Mateen, 29, decided to shoot up Pulse Night Club. Reports say in months leading up to the shooting Mateen visited gay chat rooms, messaged men on gay dating apps and visited Pulse multiple times.

Wednesday night’s celebrity bartending event, the kickoff to Knoxville PrideFest, had an enthusiastic crowd.
Wednesday night’s celebrity bartending event, the kickoff to Knoxville PrideFest, had an enthusiastic crowd.

“It wasn’t that much of a surprise to me. It’s disappointing. It’s very hard to know and I’m certainly not one to judge,” said Cramer.

Federal investigators are also digging for clues from Mateen’s widow. Authorities are trying to figure out if she knew of his intentions to attack the club. If so, she may be charged.

“The fact that she didn’t come forward, again, I feel is very sad. I feel that they will do what is appropriate to make sure that justice is served in that particular respect,” said Victoria Scott who attended the celebrity bartending event.

Until then, LGBT community members say they will continue to come together and show pride.

“We stand firm in the face of fear,” said Scott.

Thousands of people are expected to participate in Knoxville PrideFest events this week. Knoxville police say resources will be provided to make sure all activities are safe.

During the parade and festival this weekend Knoxville Pridefest will be collecting donations to help victims and their families in Orlando. There will be a memorial service for victims as well.

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