SFPD plans heavy deployment during Pride weekend

  • by Eric Burkett, Assistant Editor
  • Friday June 24, 2022
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San Francisco Police Officer Kathryn Winters, left, and police Chief William Scott held a news conference at Harvey Milk Plaza to talk about safety measures this Pride weekend. Photo: Eric Burkett
San Francisco Police Officer Kathryn Winters, left, and police Chief William Scott held a news conference at Harvey Milk Plaza to talk about safety measures this Pride weekend. Photo: Eric Burkett

With the first in-person Pride celebration since 2019 finally here, San Francisco Police Department officials are calling on the public to keep their eyes open for any suspicious behavior as they enjoy the festivities.

Speaking at a press conference at Harvey Milk Plaza in the Castro June 24, SFPD Police Chief William Scott urged the public to be on the alert.

"If you see something suspicious, please don't sit on that information," he said. "Please say something, please call."

While police haven't identified any credible threats to the weekend's events, Scott said, recent threats and incidents around both the country and the Bay Area have put many people on alert. On June 11, alleged members of the Proud Boys, a white nationalist group, hijacked a drag queen story hour at the San Lorenzo Public Library, while just the day before gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) received a bomb threat via email police judged serious enough that they conducted searches of the senator's house and offices in San Francisco and Sacramento. Nothing was turned up.

In Idaho on the same day as the bomb threat, police officers arrested 31 people who are believed to be affiliated with the white nationalist group Patriot Front, after they were seen gathering near a Pride festival in the northern city of Coeur d'Alene. In San Francisco, the LGBTQ youth organization LYRIC received two threats — including a bomb threat — over April and May, one of which necessitated the evacuation of the group's offices in the Castro. Again, nothing was turned up.

To top it all off, a shooting in San Francisco's Muni subway system June 22 raised concerns, but it is not believed to have been connected with Pride or was targeting any LGBTQ events. One man, Nesta Bowen, was killed in the shooting that occurred on a train between the Forest Hill and Castro stations, while a bystander was injured. Police have arrested a suspect, Javon Green, who is being held without bond.

Scott particularly pointed to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision earlier in the day overturning Roe v. Wade, essentially making it legal for states to ban access to abortion. He said he's expecting "a lot of people out in the streets to express their First Amendment rights, and although Pride is not about that, we don't really know what to expect as far as how that may parlay into the weekend."

The SFPD will also be getting help from federal authorities, as well, said Scott.

"We are working with our federal partners and they will be in our command post, our department operation center. We rely on them, as well, from a national point of view, for information there is a lot of information pulling," he said. "But, as we know right now, there are no known, credible threats to our events here in San Francisco."

Officer Kathryn Winters, a trans woman and the department's public information officer, noted that Pride and LGBTQ events around the country have been the targets of threats and harassment, and that SFPD would be working closely with San Francisco Pride, the organization that oversees the massive celebration, on safety plans for both the parade on Sunday and the festival at Civic Center throughout the weekend.

This is taking place despite a dustup last month over SF Pride's policy prohibiting police from marching in uniform in the parade that threatened to have Mayor London Breed and gay District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey skip the event. SF Pride and the police department's Pride Alliance reached a compromise that will see command staff march in uniform while officers wear something else. But, now that Breed tested positive for COVID June 22, she will not be at any Pride festivities and will instead be following public health department protocols that call for her to isolate for five days. Dorsey will be in her parade contingent. (SFPD was always going to provide security at the parade and that has not changed.)

"We have a safety plan that coordinates efforts with San Francisco Pride security as well as San Francisco police officers," Winters said. "And like the chief said, we also rely on members of the community. If they see something suspicious, let us know."

She offered a few common sense security measures for people to follow, as well.

"If you're out with friends, keep your friends close," she said. "Don't lose anybody, don't leave anyone behind, don't accept drinks from strangers."

Winters said that while SFPD hasn't identified any threats, they are anticipating protests. In particular, they will be following SF Pride's lead on dealing with any protests that may attempt to block the parade, as happened in 2019 when people disrupted the parade for nearly an hour. It was that incident that led to SF Pride's 2020 policy on uniforms.

"Police will only step in in the event someone's safety is in danger," said Winters.

SFPD is dealing with staffing shortages, Scott said, and the department isn't as well staffed as it was in 2019, the last year there was an in-person Pride parade. He said the department has canceled days off over Pride weekend "so we will be very heavily deployed as a result of cancellation of days off, and we make adjustments as we need to."

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