Increased security at Polk Pride events

- Pride weekend in Polk County has taken on a whole new meaning after Orlando’s terrorist attack.

"We have gone through every emotion known to man," said Kristine Lally, the president of the Lakeland Youth Association.

Organizers are especially focused on helping young LGBT people feel safe again.

"There are a lot of young people out there living in fear right now," said Lally.

Thirty people under 18 were expected at Polk Pride's youth party, where organizers hope to chip away at a renewed feeling of being under assault.

"I just went them to feel safe," said Lally. "They are safe with us, and that we are here with them through anything."

Parents also feel exposed.

Kerri McCoy called her son as soon as she heard about Orlando.

She knew he'd been to Pulse before, and didn't know what his Saturday night plans were.

"I didn't have that mother's intuition that anything happened to him," said McCoy. "But I needed to hear his voice. Got ahold of him, heard his voice, and knew he was OK."

However, killed in the attack were 25-year-olds Juan Chavez-Martinez and Amanda Alvear and 26-year-old Mercedez Flores, all of Davenport.

Polk Pride events have never had so much urgency.

"The showing of support we have seen, the donations that are coming in, the people that attended the vigil in Polk County, the growing number of people who are supporting us is what's going to make a difference," said McCoy.

Ahead of six events planned for this weekend, the goal has seldom been more clear.

"Turning all that hatred into love and celebration and education, pride events were started with the purpose of ending violence," said Lally.

There is an interfaith religious service scheduled for Thursday night, Friday night there will be a comedy show, and on Saturday a party is planned for Munn Park.

All were scheduled before the shooting.

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