Story and Photos by Ty O’Neil
The Reno community on Sunday participated in the national Equality March, a precursor to the Northern Nevada Pride festival and parade July 22. The march focused on the idea that while the rights of LGBTQ+ members have seen progress in the past, there is more to be done.
The 11 a.m. start time was greeted with inclement weather and standing water on the cement of the BELIEVE plaza in downtown Reno. Only a few march participants gathered before the start, either hiding under umbrellas or simply braving the rain. As the event officially began people seemed to emerge from everywhere – everywhere that had provided cover from the rain, that is. With some good fortune, the day never had more a light rain and for a few brief moments the sun did peek through.
Radio host Chip Evans kicked off the event by asking attendees to participate in a tradition of the Kenyan Samburu culture where two strangers look each other in the eyes, one saying, “I see you,” and the other replying, “I am here.” Then the roles are reversed. The crowd participated willingly, most already sharing umbrellas or standing shoulder-to-shoulder.
The event continued with tears as the 2016 Orlando nightclub attack was remembered. June 12 marks the one year memorial of the shooting at Pulse nightclub where 49 people were killed and many more injured by a self-proclaimed ISIS fighter. The night of the attack was Latin night, bringing together one of the most targeted LGBTQ+ minorities.
More speakers, including local activist Sean Savoy, spoke of the memorial for the Pulse nightclub victims or used their time to speak directly to the younger members of the crowd. They affirmed that progress has been made, but that in many ways LGBTQ+ rights are hanging by a thread and vigilance and activism are needed to further and protect the cause.
Marchers traveled a route to and from the Reno arch along South Virginia Street, which was closed down for the event, chanting, “What Do We Want? Equality! When Do We Want It? Now!” and “Escucha, Escucha, Estamos en la Lucha.”
One objector did slip into the crowd during the march bearing a sign inscribed with Bible verses and reading from a prayer book. He went unnoticed by most.
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Ty O’Neil is a lifelong student of anthropology with two degrees in the arts. He is far more at home in the tear gas filled streets of war torn countries than he is relaxing at home. He has found a place at This Is Reno as a photojournalist. He hopes to someday be a conflict photojournalist covering wars and natural disasters abroad.