Jun 10, 2021
Unlikely duo celebrates second year of creating Pride parade in this Long Island town
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BABYLON VILLAGE, New York -- Each June, the LGBTQ+ community and its allies traditionally flood the streets of New York for Pride events, culminating in the NYC Pride March.
Roman, a resident of Babylon Village, wanted to bring a similar embrace of Pride to this Long Island community.
"People should feel accepted and appreciated in their own backyard," Roman said.
This thought turned into a brainstorming session with Roman's good friend, Bob McKeown.
Related: Straight couple opens Long Island LGBTQ+ bar to create a safe space
McKeown met Roman a few years back at a restaurant he and his wife would frequent. Throughout the years, a close friendship developed between Roman and McKeown.
The two eventually discussed creating the village of Babylon's first-ever Pride parade after collaborating earlier on the Babylon Village Pub Crawl.
"The pandemic came along, and we were like, let's do it," McKeown.
With help from friends and family, McKeown and Roman put together a makeshift car parade in only seven days.
"It was thrown together on a wing and a prayer," said James Nicholas, who participated last year and was happy to be back for the second annual Babylon Village Pride Parade. "We didn't think it was going to be well received, but we were so shocked that the community was ... so open arms with it."
Related: Pandemic paves path for members of the transgender community
After last year's success, the duo approached current Babylon Mayor Mary Adams, proposing a five-year plan to continue the parade.
Adams wanted the next parade to be even bigger and better, and that's exactly what happened on Sunday, June 6.
"Everyone here is very close-knit. They're very open, accepting like the community is very nice. I do think it will transfer to other towns on Long Island," said Tony Palmer, who arrived early to decorate his car with pride flags.
Related: Ridgewood Police Department unveils 1st Pride themed patrol vehicle
This year, the parade had 50 cars decked out in their finest Pride decor; streets were closed for safety; and the crowds in Babylon Village flooded the streets, chanting encouraging words as the cars went by.
"We do come from two separate worlds, but this is a pure definition of you can cast your differences aside," Roman said. "No matter how you were raised you come together for the greater good and the greater good for the LGBTQ community. Showing this and having this parade shows that you're safe here. Babylon Village accepts you, and we love you!"
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Driver Crashes Into Crowd at Pride Parade in Florida; 1 Dead
Some witnesses said the crash appeared to be intentional, but Fort Lauderdale Police Detective Ali Adamson told reporters that authorities were investigating all possibilities.
The collision happened during the Wilton Manors Stonewall Pride Parade. Wilton Manors is just north of Fort Lauderdale.
The driver and the victims were a part of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men's Chorus family, according to a statement reported by news outlets from the group's president, Justin Knight.
“To my knowledge it was an accident. This was not an attack on the LGBTQ community,” Knight said in the statement. “We anticipate more details to follow and ask for the community’s love and support.”
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said a driver of a pickup truck suddenly accelerated when he was told he was next in the parade, crashing into the victims, according to WSVN-TV. In the immediate aftermath of the crash, Trantalis said he believed the crash was “deliberate.”
Police said the driver was taken into custody, but it was unclear whether he had been charged.
Photos and video from the scene showed Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz in tears while in a convertible at the parade.
In a statement Saturday night, Wasserman Schultz said she was safe but “deeply shaken and devastated that a life was lost.”
“I am so heartbroken by what took place at this celebration,” she said. “May the memory of the life lost be for a blessing.”
Spectator Christina Currie told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that she was with her family at the start of the parade.
“All of a sudden there was a loud revving of a truck and a crash through a fence,” Currie said. "It was definitely an intentional act right across the lanes of traffic.”
Wilton Manors police tweeted Saturday night that the public is not in danger.
“Though authorities are still gathering information, we know two individuals marching to celebrate inclusion and equality were struck by a vehicle,” Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony said in a statement. “This tragedy took place within feet of me and my (Broward Sheriff’s Office) team, and we are devastated having witnessed this horrific incident.”
June is Pride Month, commemorating the June 1969 police raid targeting gay patrons at the Stonewall Inn in New York that led to an uprising of LGBTQ Americans and served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement.