SF police provide safety tips for Pride festivities

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Thursday June 22, 2023
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San Francisco police officers marched in last year's parade; officers will be working with event organizers and other law enforcement agencies this weekend in ensuring safety for Pridegoers. Photo: Rick Gerharter
San Francisco police officers marched in last year's parade; officers will be working with event organizers and other law enforcement agencies this weekend in ensuring safety for Pridegoers. Photo: Rick Gerharter

With the city welcoming one of America's largest LGBTQ Pride celebrations this weekend, the San Francisco Police Department is assuring it will keep residents and the half a million expected visitors safe.

"The City and County of San Francisco has long been, and continues to be, a safe haven and a beacon of hope for members of the LGBTQ community," Police Chief William Scott stated in a June 21 news release. "Throughout Pride Month, the San Francisco Police Department is working closely with event organizers and our partner law enforcement agencies to ensure that the LGBTQ community can celebrate a safe and joyful Pride."

The department stated that "providing safety with respect for all" is its top priority this weekend. The release also gives tips to individuals to stay safe.

An estimated 500,000 tourists are expected to visit the city for Pride, KGO-TV reported.

The San Francisco Pride parade kicks off at the foot of Market Street Sunday, June 25, at 10:30 a.m. A celebration in Civic Center Plaza takes place both Saturday and Sunday. This year's theme is "Looking Back and Moving Forward."

The People's March, which started during the COVID pandemic in 2020 when the in-person SF Pride parade was canceled, will hold its fourth annual event Sunday at 11 a.m. on Polk Street.

Other activities are set to take place throughout the weekend, including the Trans March on Friday, June 23, and the Dyke March Saturday, June 24.

Law enforcement officers, including those from SFPD, will also march in the Pride parade, under a compromise with SF Pride officials that allows command staff to don uniforms while other personnel will march in street clothes with department logos, as the Bay Area Reporter has previously reported.

On alert

The SFPD safety advisory comes amid a threatening environment for LGBTQ people across the country. As the B.A.R. previously reported, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued updated guidance last month warning LGBTQ Americans of potential violence against them. Last November, of course, saw a mass shooting at Club Q, an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs that killed five and wounded 25.

"Lone offenders and small groups motivated by a range of ideological beliefs and personal grievances continue to pose a persistent and lethal threat to the homeland," DHS stated. "Likely targets of potential violence include U.S. critical infrastructure, faith-based institutions, individuals or events associated with the LGBTQIA+ community, schools, racial and ethnic minorities, and government facilities and personnel, including law enforcement."

SFPD's advisory also comes as San Francisco deals with its own violent month. On Father's Day, the occupants of a white sedan and a Black SUV engaged in a gun battle along a bustling section of the Embarcadero, from near Pier 39 to south of Market, popular with tourists. Gunfire struck the windows of parked cars, and both 10-year-old and 16-year-old girls were hit by one of the involved vehicles. Four others were injured and two people were taken into custody.

The gun battle came after shootings in the Mission district and Balboa Park injured nine and three people, respectively, in recent weeks.

Last year's SF Pride celebration in the Civic Center Plaza had to end early after false reports of a mass-casualty shooting that caused a stampede. Separately, there were physical fights, and someone sprayed pepper spray into the crowd.

The San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Celebration Committee provided the B.A.R. with the broad outlines of a security plan last month after the paper made 11 inquiries, as previously reported.

SF Pride officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, who represents the LGBTQ Castro neighborhood on the city's Board of Supervisors, told the B.A.R. on Thursday that queer people will not be deterred in celebrating Pride.

"LGBTQ San Franciscans have been marching in the streets of this city since long before it was safe to do so," Mandelman stated. "We will not be deterred by the same hateful forces that have always sought to keep us in the closet, and I am confident that the city is mobilizing all available resources to protect the public this weekend."

Gay District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey, whose district runs along the parade route south of Market Street, told the B.A.R. on Thursday that Pride is "as good as it gets" when it comes to event security in San Francisco. (Dorsey was a police spokesperson before he became a supervisor.)

"I appreciate SFPD's statement, and I'm grateful to San Francisco Pride for the work it does every year to educate event participants and the broader community about safety," he stated. "Among the major events to which San Francisco regularly plays host, I've always considered S.F. Pride to be as good as it gets — largely because our community does such a conscientious job of looking out for one another, and working cooperatively with private security and police. I hope we all have a happy, safe and fabulous Pride celebration."

Gay District 4 Supervisor Joel Engardio, the third of the three gay men on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, represents the Sunset and Outer Sunset neighborhoods in the western part of the city. Engardio said he will be in the parade with his husband and Sunset neighborhood residents.

"I know our police department will do everything it can to keep Pride week safe," Engardio said. "Many of our police officers are LGBTQ and they are proud to serve and protect."

SFPD stated that the department "will be staffed to handle all calls for service citywide, and to 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," the release continued. "As with any large event, there are always safety concerns. Safety is everyone's responsibility, including participants, organizers, security staff and law enforcement."

Safety tips

As for how people can keep themselves safe, SFPD has a number of recommendations. The first is to report any suspicious people or activities either to 911 or the SFPD's anonymous tip line at 415-575-4444.

Texting PRIDESF to 888-777 allows the AlertSF emergency text message system to provide information quickly via text throughout the weekend, the release noted.

Police also advise people not to accept alcoholic beverages from strangers and avoid drunken driving. SF Muni and BART "will get you to, from, and around Pride events," the release stated.

"If you drive to the festivities, remember to 'Park Smart!' Take your valuables with you, don't leave them inside your car," the release continued. "Maintain possession of your cellphone, wallet, and other valuables."

Police also advise against leaving your friends to go off with people you feel "unsure" of.

"There is safety in numbers," the release stated. "Stay with a group when on the street or leaving bars and clubs. Be cautious about leaving a bar or club with a stranger. A rule of thumb is that if you feel 'unsure' about someone, rely on that instinct, and do not go with that person."

Updated, 6/22/23: This article has been updated with comments from Supervisors Rafael Mandelman, Matt Dorsey, and Joel Engardio.

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