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Pride Events to Balance Security and Resilience

With Pride Month events scheduled across the U.S., organizers are grappling with how to balance security needs with community resilience.
New York City Pride March, 2012
New York City Pride March, 2012Kevin Truong

A day after the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, organizers of upcoming Pride Month events across the country were working with their partners in local law enforcement to increase security and ensure the safety of those people expected to participate in the month's remaining Pride events.

From New York City to Boise, Idaho, emergency meetings were held and phone calls made Sunday as news spread of the shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando that left 50 dead, including the gunman.

“Everyone was literally dialing each other at the same time,” said Sam Singer, spokesperson for the 46th Annual San Francisco LGBT Pride Parade. “The San Francisco Police Department has always been very helpful, and we will work very closely with them to ensure public safety at all events.”

San Francisco Pride is one of the largest in the country, with over a million people expected to attend the two-day event.

"This is not a time for us to go into hiding. Fear does nothing but cripple us. We must move forward. It's a time for us to be loud, be proud and come out.”

On the other side of the country, organizers of the NYC Pride March had no plans to cancel any of their events, and planned to continue working with their partners in the New York City Police Department to ensure the safety of all of their participants, according to its official statement.

Organizers of smaller Prides events across the country were also making security a major priority. Phil Cobucci, president of Nashville Pride, expected up to 20,000 people to attend the city's two-day event later this month, which will include a festival and a concert.

“Nashville Pride has good relations with Mayor Megan Barry and the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department,” Cobucci said. “The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department has always provided great support, and Nashville Pride will work with them in ensuring increased security at its events.”

Some organizers of Pride events in more conservative parts of the country were having major security concerns even before the mass shooting in Orlando. Drew Phoenix, Executive Director of Identity, Inc., which organizes Alaska PrideFest in Anchorage, said last year the organization’s flag was set on fire at their local office, and he added that “there will definitely be an increase in security" at this yer's event, where he expects several thousand to attend.

In Idaho, Rodney Busbee, director of Boise Pridefest, described a Sunday filled with emergency meetings, messages, and a vigil on the steps of the city's Capitol. “One of the things we always go heavy on is security at Boise PrideFest,” Busbee explained. “Each year we have threats made on Facebook and protestors at the festival.”

Busbee described how Boise PrideFest will have more than a dozen police officers and 20 security guards in a one-block radius. He and other organizers of the event will also be meeting with the Boise Police Department to discuss any further security measures needed to ensure the safety of all participants.

Beyond talking about the logistics of providing increased security, Busbee described his personal reaction to yesterday’s events in Orlando. “We often wake up to mass shootings, and it has numbed us to a point, but [yesterday] it was personal,” he said. “It felt like someone reached in and stole my heart.”

Busbee, however, said he won’t let the tragedy prevent him from celebrating LGBTQ Pride Month. “We will not let fear control our community ... we are about to show how strong this community is this week.”

Back in Nashville, Cobucci shared those same sentiments, saying “The events that took place [Sunday] in Orlando are truly horrifying ... However, this is not a time for us to go into hiding. Fear does nothing but cripple us. We must move forward. It's a time for us to be loud, be proud and come out.”

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