SFPD, Pride reassure celebration will be safe

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday June 26, 2024
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Spectators along Market Street watched last year's Pride parade. Photo: Rick Gerharter
Spectators along Market Street watched last year's Pride parade. Photo: Rick Gerharter

The potential for violence is a reality for Pride events across the world. As San Francisco prepares to welcome hundreds of thousands of visitors for the mammoth Pride parade Sunday, June 30, local law enforcement and SF Pride officials reassure that events will be safe.

Americans planning to attend Pride Month events this June are being asked to remain vigilant against possible terrorism, though no specific threats have been reported. The FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a warning about the celebrations May 10, as the Bay Area Reporter previously reported.

A week later the State Department released a travel advisory May 17, saying Americans abroad should stay alert in places that are popular with the LGBTQ community.

In recent years anti-LGBTQ organizations have attempted to disrupt Pride-related events, including in 2022 at the San Lorenzo Library in the East Bay that was presenting a drag story hour for children.

San Francisco Pride has experienced safety-related incidents the past two years. In 2022, people fled the Sunday celebration at Civic Center Plaza in terror, falsely believing a mass-casualty shooting had taken place and causing a stampede. Separately, there were physical fights, and someone sprayed pepper spray into the crowd.

The next year, as the B.A.R. reported, a man was arrested by the San Francisco Police Department for allegedly carrying a loaded, concealed firearm into the Pride celebration area.

The San Francisco LGBT Pride Celebration Committee and the San Francisco Police Department both told the B.A.R. they have prepared for issues that may arise this weekend. They also are encouraging Pridegoers to stay safe.

SF Pride responded June 12 with a lengthy statement to the B.A.R.'s inquiries about the safety measures it was taking this year.

"To ensure a safe celebration throughout Pride weekend, we are working with local production agency, Silverback, along with Shaw Management Group to implement an extensive security plan developed in conjunction with numerous private security firms and SFPD," a spokesperson stated.

"In addition to the presence of law enforcement, we have partnered with a private security team that specializes in event security," the spokesperson stated. "These professionals have undergone extensive training and are experienced in handling large-scale events like SF Pride. They will be stationed throughout the event area to provide a visible security presence and address any security concerns that may arise."

The spokesperson continued, "To further enhance safety, we have implemented a comprehensive bag check and screening process at the entry points of the event. This measure is designed to prevent the entry of any prohibited items and ensure the safety of all attendees. We encourage participants to review the bag policy and list of prohibited items ahead of time to facilitate a smooth entry process."

The list of prohibited items on the committee's website states, "We strongly discourage bringing BAGS of any kind into the Celebration!" but that bags will be allowed if they are "Totally clear plastic vinyl or PV and do not exceed 12" x 6" x 12." (search for "clear stadium approved bags" but double check the measurements!)"

Small clutch bags and fanny packs will also be allowed, the website states.

The B.A.R. asked if everyone will be required to go through metal detectors and if all bags will be thoroughly searched, but did not hear back. The statement went on to discuss education and medical services.

"Similar to previous years, we've provided extensive training to our volunteers and staff members on safety protocols, emergency response procedures, and conflict de-escalation techniques. By empowering our team with the necessary knowledge and skills, we aim to ensure a swift and effective response to any unforeseen circumstances," the statement continued.

"Medical services will be readily available throughout the event area, with trained medical personnel on standby to provide immediate assistance if needed," the statement added. "We have also coordinated with local hospitals and emergency services to ensure a swift and efficient response in case of any medical emergencies."

SFPD gave the B.A.R. its own statement June 12.

"With large crowds expected, including guests from around the world, providing safety with respect for all is our number one priority. SFPD has been working with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to ensure safety for all of our residents and guests. We are prepared to respond to emergencies and anything that will risk the safety to the public," Officer Robert Rueca stated to the B.A.R.

"Our department will be staffed to handle all calls for service citywide and to provide adequate public safety staffing at Pride events throughout Pride Month," Rueca added. "Our officers will be vigilant for unlawful or unsafe activity and will respond as appropriate. As with any large event, there are always safety concerns. Safety is everyone's responsibility, including participants, organizers, security staff, and law enforcement.

"We ask for anyone who sees something suspicious to say something specific as it takes the entire community to participate in making these events safe," Rueca stated.

Safety group offers tips

Greg Carey, a gay man who is chair of Castro Community on Patrol, a volunteer safety group, recently discussed safety tips people can take when he presented two flyers for Castro merchants to hang in their windows.

The first — "B Safe 4 Pride" — contains "common sense things to make sure you're not a victim of some opportunist who comes along," Carey said.

Advice on the flyer includes not to "get wasted," "go with friends," "don't leave anything unattended," and, if "hooking up," "snap a picture of them and send it to a trusted friend."

The second flyer — which designates a business as a safe space to report hate crimes — states, "This location is a safe place for victims of hate crimes and harassment to call 911 and wait for police to arrive." Businesses would have to agree to actually have employees do that if they want to hang the sign up.

"Every place with one of these is a place of safety," Carey said. "People who see these in the windows can see that the community really cares about safety."

Protests possible at Pride

There's also the potential for protests during the parade. As the B.A.R. previously reported, a number of pro-Palestinian groups are boycotting SF Pride this year, alleging the committee is complicit in the Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip. For its part, the Pride committee has called for a ceasefire in the conflict and the release of the hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza.

In 2019, the parade was blocked by protesters for about an hour demonstrating against police and corporate participation. Misdemeanor charges against two protesters were dropped by then-district attorney Chesa Boudin the following year, as the B.A.R. reported.

SF Pride was not specific in plans the organization has to keep the parade moving in the event of street protests along the route.

"Although we cannot disclose specific details, there are plans in place to ensure the Parade proceeds regardless of disruptions," the Pride spokesperson stated.

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