Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018
 

For 1st time, Pridegoers in SF to be screened

NEWS


s.hemmelgarn@ebar.com

Latino groups carried flags from Latin America and Caribbean countries in last year's Pride parade. Photo: Rick Gerharter
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Metal detectors and bag checks will greet the hundreds of thousands of people attending this weekend's San Francisco LGBT Pride celebration, marking the first time such screening has occurred at the event and sure to lead to long lines to get in to the Civic Center site.

The screenings are in response to the recent massacre at a gay Orlando, Florida nightclub in which 49 people were fatally shot and 53 were injured, SF Pride Executive Director George Ridgely said Monday at a news conference with the mayor, police, and other city officials.

"We are obviously continuing with a heavy heart as we go into this week," Ridgely said, referring to the June 12 shooting at the Pulse nightclub. Gunman Omar Mateen, 29, died while exchanging gunfire with police in the attack. His motives weren't clear.

Ridgely said there would be metal detectors and bag checks at all entry points of the Saturday, June 25 and Sunday, June 26 Pride celebration. There will not be screening at the parade.

In response to emailed questions, SF Pride spokesman Sam Singer said, "We anticipate that the new measures may slow the entrance, but not cause any significant delays into getting to the event."

Bags larger than 18 inches by 18 inches won't be permitted.

"Not bringing a bag will absolutely speed up the process," Ridgely said Monday.

On its website, SF Pride said everyone must be screened, and there won't be any lockers where oversized bags may be stored.

Besides obvious bans on firearms or other weapons, illegal drugs, or alcohol, people also won't be allowed to bring in coolers, glass bottles, radios, or cigarettes, including vapes. Guide dogs and other authorized service animals helping people with disabilities will be permitted.

Ridgely urged people to "be vigilant."

"If you see suspicious or violent activity, please report it immediately" to police or event staff, he said.

Deputy police Chief Mike Redmond said there would be "an increased, large, visible presence at all entertainment venues" and parties in the coming days, with a 25 to 30 percent increase in police officers on hand. Plainclothes officers will be among the police at the celebration and other events.

Gay Supervisor Scott Wiener was also at Monday's news conference.

"On Sunday, I think a little piece of all of us died," said Wiener, referring to the nightclub massacre.

He spoke of bars as longtime safe spaces for LGBTs and said, "Orlando was and is unbelievably traumatizing for the LGBT community. We can all picture ourselves in that nightclub."

Wiener also said, though, that the community would not "curl up in a ball."

"You can attack us, you can beat us, you can bully us," he said, but "we're going to come back stronger than ever before."

The Orlando attack has called attention to "the level of violence directed at the LGBT community every day," including transgender people and school students, Wiener noted.

It's time "to get it together and take violence against the LGBT community seriously," he said.

 

Lawsuits

In May, three men injured in shootings at recent San Francisco Pride festivals filed lawsuits against organizers and tried to get this year's celebration called off unless SF Pride agreed to metal detectors, bag checks, and several other tactics. As recently as a court hearing last Thursday, organizers had still been refusing to make the changes.

Attorneys for SF Pride said in recent court documents that "Transforming the celebration into a ticketed event with metal detectors, patdowns, and bag checks fundamentally changes the nature of the event as an open and public celebration of the LGBT community and LGBT rights, and it would violate the core values of San Francisco Pride."

In a tentative ruling last week, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Joseph Quinn denied the request for an injunction. Citing the timing of the lawsuits, among other factors, Quinn finally denied the injunction request in an order he issued Tuesday.

Ridgely said Monday that his organization's decision to perform security screenings isn't related to the lawsuits.

Asked last week about the injunction attempt, Wiener said, "The idea that we would shut down Pride or require security measures that would effectively shut down Pride makes no sense."

Monday, he said, "I don't love the idea of metal detectors" and similar security steps, "but given the circumstances, I understand why the Pride Committee has decided to do this. ... We are in a very unique situation."

Wiener, who said he's "unaware of any credible threat" around this weekend's events, acknowledged "there will be delays" getting into the Pride festival, but there's "always a tradeoff" to ensure safety, and he said he's confident SF Pride would make it as smooth a process as possible.

Ridgely and Singer didn't respond to numerous emailed questions, including what would be done to ensure the security of people waiting to be screened, and where people would need to line up.

Mayor Ed Lee called on people Monday to "remember the individuals, those families that were the victims of that horrific tragedy in Orlando."

Lee noted people are mourning, but he predicted there would be "even more people that will come to our celebration" this weekend and "that is a good, good thing."

Besides the Pride parade and celebration, other events will include the Trans and Dyke marches. There will be no Pink Saturday or Pink Party festival in the streets of the Castro district this year, but thousands of people are still expected to flock to the neighborhood.

Police pledged security around all the events.

Wiener said he'd met with bar owners, police, and others last week to discuss safety.

Bar owners are "a little freaked out right now," he said, and had questions about ensuring guns don't make it into their venues and keeping the city updated on the physical layouts of their clubs if they remodel.

 

Celebration and parade basics

The Civic Center celebration runs from noon to 6 p.m., Saturday and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday. The festival is free, but there's a suggested donation of $5 to $10. Donations from the celebration have helped Pride contribute more than $2.5 million to community nonprofits since 1997.

The parade begins at 10:30 a.m. Sunday at Market and Beale streets and ends at Market and Eighth streets.

This year's theme is "For Racial and Economic Justice."

Stars of the TV reality show Transcendent are among the celebrity grand marshals. Community grand marshals include local transgender activist Mia "Tu Mutch" Satya, and the organization grand marshal is Black Lives Matter.

For more on the community grand marshals, see the profiles elsewhere in this section and the Pride section. For more information, visit http://www.sfpride.org.

 






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