Charlotte, N.C., Hosts Gay Pride Event Before DNC
A week before the start of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, the city on Saturday hosted thousands of people for the opening of a gay pride festival.
Organizers of the Pride Charlotte Festival said they expect big crowds for activities that include a concert, a poker tournament and a basketball competition.
Thousands annually attend the festival, which also draws dozens of protesters. But this year's two-day festival comes after voters in May decided to add a prohibition against gay marriage to the state constitution, effectively slamming the door shut on same-sex marriages.
Many of the people attending the first day of the festival said they were there to have fun and greet friends. But some said they showed up to show solidarity.
"I think it's taken on a new meaning this year," said Jane Weathers, 34, a teacher. "A lot of people were upset by the vote. Turning out to events like this shows we're proud and we're not going to let this get us down. We'll keep fighting for our rights."
Dave Webb, one of the pride festival's organizers, said the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community is united and will push for change.
He said the festival has continued to grow over the years. What used to be a relatively small gathering has grown so big, they moved it downtown and spread it out over two days.
"More than anything, it's an opportunity for the community in the Carolinas to come together for a large event and a public event," he said. "It allows the community to be very visible and very open. And by having different speakers on the stage, it gives them a platform to talk about social and political issues."
The Democratic convention is being held Sept. 4 to 6. For the first two days, the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte's downtown will be the main venue.
On the last day, President Barack Obama will make his acceptance speech at the 74,000-seat outdoor Bank of America Stadium where the city's NFL team plays.
North Carolina's largest city is expecting 35,000 people - including delegates and journalists - to attend the convention. The city also expects thousands of protesters.