San Diegans can expect to see an increase in security at the annual San Diego Pride Parade and Festival in light of the Orlando shooting that killed at least 49 people.
Stephen Whitburn — executive director of San Diego Pride, which hosts the event that typically attracts more than 100,000 people — said the San Diego Police Department informed organizers that there will be a “significant police presence both uniform and non-uniform to ensure everyone is safe at Pride.”
“We’ll be working with the Police Department to ensure we’re taking all prudent measures,” said Whitburn, who has led San Diego Pride since 2013. “We’re encouraging everyone including our staff, volunteers and spectators to let us know if they see or hear anything unusual. Even if it doesn’t seem like much, it’s important to report anything unusual so it can be checked out.”
A spokesperson for the San Diego Police Department said it’s in the planning phase for the event.
“Additionally we have increased our patrols in the Hillcrest area with a focus on areas where large groups gather,” Lt. Scott Wahl said. “We want all San Diegans and their guests to feel safe.”
Whitburn, a well-known leader in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community, said mixed reactions were felt when news of the Sunday shooting spread. Gunman Omar Mateen, 29, killed 49 and wounded another 53 at a nightclub frequented by members of the LGBT community.
Hours after the shooting, a man carrying guns and explosive materials was arrested near the Los Angeles Pride Parade and Festival.
“There’s been a whole mixture of reactions,” Whitburn said. “Some people are obviously devastated by what happened. There have been a lot of tears. Other people are understandably angry. Still, others are very motivated to find a way to end this kind of violence.”
But the San Diego Pride Parade and Festival isn’t a stranger to violence, Whitburn said. People have been tear-gassed and beaten with baseball bats.
“In both situations, the community came together and rallied against this kind of violence to ensure Pride is safe,” Whitburn said.
The Sunday shooting that’s still being investigated prompted San Diego’s LGBT members to hold a vigil in Hillcrest. The event was attended by Mayor Kevin Faulconer, police Chief Shelley Zimmerman and Councilman Todd Gloria.
In a statement, Gloria said he was in communication with local leaders to ensure the public is safe.
“We will protect our residents as we stand in solidarity with people across the nation mourning last night’s tragic events,” Gloria said.
Whitburn said the purpose of the San Diego Pride Parade and Festival, and other related events is more clear now than ever.
“I sometimes get questions about why we still need to have Pride parades when there have been so many advances toward equality,” Whitburn said. “The answer showed the other night. All the laws in the world won’t end prejudice. We need to continue to come together, share our love, support and solidarity to combat prejudice in all its forms.”
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