(AP Photo/Richard Vogel)
LGBTQ festivals world-wide are upping police presence in light of the massacre in Orlando that killed 49 club-goers.While there is no evidence thus far suggesting Omar Mateen, the gunman who opened fire in the Pulse nightclub, was cooperating with other radical elements, precautions are nevertheless being taken.There remains the possibility that copycat attacks could be planned, after the Islamic State celebrated Mateen's attack through official channels in recent hours. And, as always, there remains the possibility that far-right groups could target Pride festivals — a fact underscored by the arrest of James Howell, a heavily-armed man who may have been travelling to the Los Angeles Pride festival.
The New York Police Department and Mayor Bill De Blasio confirmed after the attack that the city's police force would be increasing its presence around gay bars and LGBTQ organizations, although the NYPD added that there were "no credible threats" to the city after the attack in Florida.Police in DC also deployed additional personnel to Capital Pride, which wrapped up its week-long run on Sunday, following the attack overnight. While officials originally considered cancelling the parade, things in LA went ahead without issue, albeit with significantly more police than normal.Toronto Pride, Canada's largest LGBTQ festival, also announced additional security measures on Monday, vowing to dedicate the month-long schedule of festivities to the victims of the Orlando shooting. "Our community will not stand by in silence and fear," organizers said in a press release.
"You have to live your life; you can't live in fear…Pride is about showing ourselves to the world."
Toronto's Pride was already facing additional security measures, after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced he would march in the annual parade that snakes through the city in early July and draws tens of thousands of revelers. Representatives from his office, as well as city police and the federal Royal Canadian Mounted Police met with the Pride organizers on Monday.On social media, some wondered whether increased police presence at Pride could be a hinderance for marginalized members of the LGBTQ community.
The Toronto Pride organizers acknowledged that, calling the additional police presence "not ideal," but said they would take steps to make all Pride-goers more comfortable.A statement from the officer responsible for investigating hate crimes for the Metropolitan Police in London, meanwhile, said the would increase security measures but ensure that police presence for the events would be "appropriate."
"While there is no intelligence to suggest an increased risk in London, we have increased our patrols in prime locations and continue to work closely and engage with the LGBT community, visiting clubs and local area offering reassurance and being visible," reads a statement from the London police.The precautions and fear are being emulated across the world — although met with equal parts defiance from queer organizations."You have to live your life; you can't live in fear…Pride is about showing ourselves to the world," Paul Grossman told Philly.com after police increased their presence around that city's pride festival."At a moment like this, playing into our values of openness and pride is so critical," Equality Illinois CEO Brian Johnson told the Daily Herald. Chicago's mayor, Rahm Emanuel, said the city would be dedicating more resources to that city's Pride festival as well.Local media have also reported that Pride events in Boston, Birmingham, Milwaukee, Providence, Seattle, Paris, and elsewhere were all looking at more security measures.Follow Justin Ling on Twitter: @Justin_Ling