SF Pride announces some security plans

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday May 30, 2023
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An exuberant crowd watched last year's SF Pride Parade on Market Street. Photo: Rick Gerharter
An exuberant crowd watched last year's SF Pride Parade on Market Street. Photo: Rick Gerharter

The organization that puts on the San Francisco Pride parade and celebration announced it's taking measures to keep the event safe. It comes as Pride committees and LGBTQ organizations are taking greater security precautions amid an intensifying national backlash to LGBTQ rights with Pride Month kicking off Thursday.

In San Francisco, several LGBTQ nonprofits have banded together to seek $350,000 in the city's new fiscal year budget to pay for security upgrades and safety assessments of their locations. It is in reaction to several receiving threats of violence, such as the bomb threats the LGBTQ youth focused agency LYRIC received last year.

Various LGBTQ groups in the U.S. have hired security consultants ahead of Pride month, the Associated Press reported May 30. Spokespeople for the San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Celebration Committee stated to the Bay Area Reporter Tuesday that there will be law enforcement, a private security team, and "a comprehensive bag check and screening process at the entry points of the event."

The committee stated it's working with LIVE Management Consulting "to implement a robust security plan that was created in collaboration with the [San Francisco Police Department] and other appropriate law enforcement agencies."

LIVE Management Consulting didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. The two-day celebration will be held June 24-25 at the Civic Center Plaza, and the parade will begin at 10:30 a.m. June 25 at Market and Beale streets.

At the end of last year's celebration there were false reports of a mass-casualty shooting that caused a stampede in Civic Center Plaza. Separately, there were physical fights, and someone sprayed pepper spray into the crowd.

"It was very unfortunate that occurred, but overall it was a very safe event and parade, which I was so grateful for on the other side Monday," SF Pride Executive Director Suzanne Ford, a trans woman, said when asked about security by the B.A.R. in April.

Ford had said that JJLA, the Los Angeles-based live event and entertainment company that will be producing the event, will be bringing in new security.

"There's one security contractor that reports to them and reports to me," Ford said. "We will obviously be hiring other security companies. Not just one. And we will hire some queer-owned security companies that will help too."

JJLA did not respond to requests for comment for that article or for this report.

Ford also had told the B.A.R. there will be metal detectors at the entrance to the celebration grounds, as there have been in years past.

Since the April interview, the B.A.R. reached out to the SF Pride organization 11 times for more details on safety before receiving the May 30 statement. Initially, on May 1, a source with the organization stated simply that SF Pride has a similar level of investment from state and federal law enforcement as the Super Bowl, and issued a statement from Ford that "SF Pride is working with local authorities and our security team to coordinate a comprehensive plan to protect our community."

Requests to identify the companies providing security, and to interview a representative, have still not been answered.

"As we approach this joyous celebration of love, diversity, and equality, we want to take a moment to reassure the public of our unwavering commitment to keeping all participants safe," the statement reads. "We understand the significance of creating a welcoming and inclusive environment where everyone can express their authentic selves without fear or hesitation. With this in mind, we have implemented comprehensive measures to safeguard the Pride festivities and ensure a positive experience for everyone involved."

Thorough statement out of NYC

SF Pride's statement came after New York City's Heritage of Pride issued a thorough news release May 25 on its safety policies, stating that it was moved to provide "transparency for how community members can be safe as we care for ourselves, our communities, and our environment."

The New York release links to a page stating that personnel will be trained on evacuation, exit and communication plans; active shooters and other threats; de-escalation training; and capacity and spacing policies imposed by event venues and government agencies.

It also tells people planning on attending the Big Apple's Pride festivities what they can do to stay safe, such as advising people of one's whereabouts or changes in plans, keeping electronic devices charged and writing down emergency contacts, designating an emergency meet up spot, and avoiding drunken or otherwise impaired driving.

Tense environment

The concern over security comes in an increasingly tense environment for LGBTQ Americans — including the mass shooting at a Colorado Springs queer nightclub last year.

Five hundred anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced in state legislatures this year thus far, and already people are moving from Florida, Texas and other states, citing a hostile environment created by measures ranging from the Sunshine State's newly-expanded "Don't Say Gay" law to those targeting drag shows and banning gender-affirming care for minors, as the B.A.R. previously reported.

Speaking in general terms, SF Pride's statement read, "We've provided extensive training to our volunteers and staff members on safety protocols, emergency response procedures, and conflict de-escalation techniques." It states that medical services will be available throughout the festival grounds, that there'll be "accessible seating areas, wheelchair-accessible stages, ASL interpretation, and accessible restrooms," and a zero-tolerance policy on harassment.

The San Francisco Police Department didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Last year, the SFPD issued a statement that it would provide "adequate public safety staffing at pride events throughout Pride Month. Our officers will be vigilant for unlawful or unsafe activity and will respond as appropriate."

Gay District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey, who represents the city's South of Market neighborhood along the parade route, told the B.A.R. that he's been to a mandatory safety training hosted by Pride.

"San Francisco Pride takes public safety extremely seriously," he stated. "Among the major events our city hosts, in fact, I think SF Pride is the gold standard on safety, not just for its own training and education programs but for its longstanding partnerships with local law enforcement and private security services."

SF Pride Castro Theatre fundraiser

SF Pride will be hosting a fundraiser Friday, June 2, at the Castro Theatre called "SF Pride 2023 Kick-Off: A Night of Queer Entertainment," according to a May 30 news release.

The evening begins at 7 p.m. and the suggested donation is $20. Tickets will be available at the door and at Eventbrite.com.

"The entertaining lineup includes the play "The Compton's Cafeteria Riot," the film "Mrs. Vera's Daybook," "The Girl From 7th Avenue," and performances by DJs, dancers, and local legends showcasing the unique talent of our community," the release states.

"This kick-off event is fittingly in the vibrant heart of the Castro, which is a historic epicenter of inclusivity and art," stated Nguyen Pham, SF Pride board president. "We anticipate starting this Pride season with exceptional entertainment. Mark your calendars, gather your friends, and get ready for a Pride season you will never forget."

David Perry, a gay spokesperson for Another Planet Entertainment, which operates the Castro Theatre, stated to the B.A.R. that the theater is "the perfect place to kick off Pride."

"Another Planet is honored to be part of this, especially in a time when, sadly, so many businesses in other parts of the country are giving into fear, ignorance and hate," Perry stated. "We have always stood with the queer communities and always will."

The B.A.R. previously reported that SF Pride is facing a financial shortfall. Ford told the B.A.R. in April that Pride will be accepting donations along the parade route. Victor Ruiz-Cornejo, a gay man who advises Mayor London Breed on LGBTQ issues, didn't immediately answer whether the city would be stepping in to fund any of the $800,000 that the organization said it needs.

Updated, 5/31/23: This article has been updated with comments from Supervisor Matt Dorsey.

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