More than 2,500 people hit the streets of Starkville, Mississippi, on Saturday for the pride parade that almost wasn’t.
Starkville had been thrust into the national spotlight last month, when the Starkville Board of Aldermen denied a permit to the local LGBTQ advocacy group, Starkville Pride, to host the town’s first-ever pride parade.
Starkville Pride officials then filed a lawsuit against the city after the board’s decision, saying town officials had discriminated against LGBTQ residents and violated free speech rights.
The board of aldermen reversed its decision on March 6, with the town’s mayor, Lynn Spruill ― who had already been in favor of the parade ― casting the deciding vote, allowing plans for the festivities to move ahead.
Saturday’s event was reportedly the largest parade ever in the town, which boasts a population of 25,000 ― possibly a result of the massive amount of attention the initial denial generated, the mayor said.
“I’m so proud of Starkville,” said Spruill. “I saw nothing but good things. When you look ahead of you, all you can see is people marching. And then you look behind you and all you can see is people marching. It’s absolutely wonderful. I haven’t been in something quite so happy and fun and pleasant in a long time.”
There were some dissenting voices. About a dozen or so members of the Consuming Fire Fellowship, located in Gloster, Mississippi, and known to protest LGBTQ events, reportedly appeared, but the day’s events went smoothly.
One of the event’s co-organizers, Bailey McDaniel, called the turnout “amazing.”
“I’m just so proud,” McDaniel, who is a student at Mississippi State University, told The Dispatch. “I think today set the precedent for all the Pride parades that will come over the years.”