A Kansas man has been indicted on charges of threatening to bomb and “commit a mass shooting” at an LGBTQ pride event over the weekend in Nashville, Tennessee.
Joshua Hensley, 25, who was arrested by FBI agents Thursday and charged with two counts of transmitting an interstate threat, allegedly posted Facebook comments in April threatening to “make shrapnel pressure cooker bombs” for this year’s annual Nashville Pride celebration and “commit a mass shooting” at the event, the U.S. attorney’s office for Middle Tennessee said in a statement released Tuesday.
“We will not tolerate hate-based, threats of violence designed to intimidate Tennesseans,” U.S. Attorney Henry C. Leventis said in the statement. “We will continue to work with our partners at the FBI to ensure that the civil rights of all persons are protected.”
If he is convicted, Hensley faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each charge. He is also known as Josh Echo, according to the Justice Department.
Asked about the threats and arrest, board member Brady Ruffin said Nashville Pride is thankful for the "proactive efforts and response" from the FBI and the Justice Department and added that "safety and security" are top priorities for Nashville Pride.
"We continue to work directly with a private security company and a number of city, state, and federal entities to advise and implement safety measures around the Nashville Pride Festival and Parade," Ruffin said in an email. "We look forward to creating a safe and secure space for the LGBTQ+ community to be authentically and vulnerably themselves this weekend at the Nashville Pride Parade and Festival."
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Christopher Sanders, the executive director of the Tennessee Equality Project, a statewide LGBTQ group based in Nashville, said that despite the threats, the community “will come together to honor our past and build power to face our challenges.”
“Pride is a celebration of our lives, especially when they are under threat by terrorizing forces,” he wrote in an email. “The climate is more dangerous for our community this year, but Pride gatherings have been a source of strength for over 50 years.”
The alleged threat against Nashville Pride comes amid an increase in anti-LGBTQ demonstrations across the U.S. and a surge in state bills targeting the LGBTQ community, particularly transgender people.
The Crowd Counting Consortium, a research group that tracks the sizes of political protests, found that there has been an average of 39 anti-LGBTQ protests nationwide every month since June 2022, compared with just three a month from January 2017 through May 2022.
And the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization, declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ people in the U.S. this month — the first time it has done so in its 40-year history — in response to the unprecedented spike in state legislation targeting LGBTQ people.