LA Pride festival postponed amid growing coronavirus concerns

The city’s annual LGBTQ celebration is normally held in June in honor of the historic 1969 Stonewall uprising.
By Julian Shen-Berro

Los Angeles’ annual gay pride celebration has joined a growing list of events across the country that have been postponed, canceled or suspended amid fears of the coronavirus pandemic. The LA Pride Festival and Parade, now in its 50th year, will be pushed back to a yet unknown date from its traditional mid-June kickoff, organizers announced Thursday.

The decision came after the city of West Hollywood, the gay enclave where the march takes place, implemented a series of cancellations for all city-sponsored and funded events prior to June 30, and advised others to do the same. Estevan Montemayor, board president of Christopher Street West, the nonprofit that organizes LA Pride, said the decision to postpone the event was made in the interest of public safety.

“This postponement is going to give us a little more time to work with our city officials to make sure that first and foremost everyone is safe and healthy,” he told NBC News. “That is the priority for everyone.”

Los Angeles’ annual pride festival traces its roots to 1970, making it one of the first such events in the country. Since its debut, it has been held in June in honor of the 1969 Stonewall uprising in New York, widely thought of as the event that helped spark the modern-day gay rights movement. The hugely anticipated event — which draws hundreds of thousands of people from across the country — reportedly generated nearly $75 million in economic output last year.

Montemayor said Christopher Street West is still working with city officials to confirm a new date, but he emphasized that the event would not be canceled.

“We hosted the world’s first legally permitted Pride parade on Hollywood Boulevard on June 28, 1970,” he said. “That is a significant milestone. We are going to make sure we commemorate it.”

Across the country in New York City, the site of the iconic Stonewall uprising, organizers of the annual NYC Pride march announced on Friday that they are closely monitoring the coronavirus situation but currently have no plans to postpone this year’s June event, which attracts millions of people from around the world every year.

LA Pride, however, is not without company when it comes to canceled or postponed events. Amid growing COVID-19 fears, a number of professional sports leagues, including the NBA, NHL and MLB have paused or suspended their seasons; a slew of conferences, including South By Southwest and the Electronic Entertainment Expo have been canceled; and music festivals such as Coachella and Stagecoach have been postponed until the fall.

States and cities across the country have also tried to minimize the spread of the virus by limiting large crowds. Washington state, for example, has banned gatherings of more than 250 people in several counties, and New York has prohibited most gatherings of more than 500 people. Maryland, Michigan, Ohio and Oregon have closed schools statewide.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists event cancellations as one measure that may slow the virus, which has claimed over 40 lives in the U.S. and 5,000 across the globe. The CDC is urging those in higher risk populations, including older adults and those with serious chronic medical conditions, to avoid large crowds whenever possible.

As for Montemayor, he said the LGBTQ community is particularly poised to handle the uncertainty spawned by this current pandemic, which on Friday was officially declared a national emergency by President Donald Trump.

“Our community has always been incredibly resilient, especially in the face of uncertain times,”he said. “We’ve faced this before — we always have. We’ll come together, we’ll beat it, we’ll overcome it, and we’ll all rise up very shortly to convene and celebrate this big, bold, beautiful community.”

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