San Francisco city leaders stood on the steps of the emergency management department on Monday and vowed that the city’s annual LGBT Pride festival taking place this weekend would not only be safe but one of the “most celebratory” in its 46-year history. The recent shooting at Orlando gay nightclub Pulse, which Mayor Ed Lee described as a “massacre,” had clearly shaken some of the speakers, as well as hardened their resolve—and amped up preparations among local, state and federal agencies.
“As we move into the Pride weekend, it’s really tempting to curl up into a ball and retreat,” said San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener, a member of the city’s legislative body and an openly gay man. “But we have to do the opposite. We need to have the most celebratory and joyous Pride that we have ever had before. That is how we will win and that is how we send the message that nothing is going to get us down.”
For the first time, several of the biggest events associated with the weekend-long festival will require attendees to go through security screening at all entry points. The size of bags will also be limited to 18 in. by 18 in., and the committee organizing the event warned of long lines, recommending that people not bring bags at all. A spokesperson for the SF Pride Committee said that the city expects as many as 1 million people to attend the parade on Sunday and about 300,000 people at other events on each of Saturday and Sunday.
Though a spokesperson for the San Francisco Police Department would not release exact figures for how many officers would be on the ground, nor detail the specific roles state and federal law enforcement agencies will play, a high-ranking officer promised to have more police activated in the wake of Orlando. At the press conference, Deputy Chief Michael Redmond said that the department planned to increase the number of officers by about 25%, promising a “very high visible presence” around all entertainment venues, as well as plainclothes officers at clubs and events associated with the festival.
Attendees were encouraged to remain vigilant in looking for suspicious activity and to sign up for emergency text messages from the city. “The terrorist attack in Orlando, what happened in San Bernardino, the attacks in Belgium and Paris, have created a cloud of concern and fear,” said Sam Singer, SF Pride spokesperson, adding that though there is always security at the festival, this year’s measures are unprecedented. “We don’t know how long this level of security will last in San Francisco.”
Despite the concern the LGBT community is facing, after having one of their safe spaces so violated, Supervisor Wiener ended his remarks by striking a defiant tone. “You can attack us, you can beat us, you can bully us, you can kill us,” he said, “and we’re just going to keep coming back and we’re going to be stronger than before.”
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