The FBI reached out to San Francisco police after this weekend’s massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando to offer added security for the upcoming Pride celebrations, while San Francisco’s police chief expressed concern about the prospect of a “copycat” shooting.
“Anytime you have something like this happen, you worry about a copycat,” said interim Police Chief Toney Chaplin on Monday, shortly before department officials met with Pride organizers to discuss enhancing security measures for events that include a downtown parade on June 26. “So I’d rather err on the side of caution and put more security out there and make sure that we have a high presence.”
San Francisco Pride is one of the biggest events of its kind in the country, with an expected draw of around 1 million people. On Monday, several people in the Castro neighborhood said they still plan to attend the events, in part because they don’t want to be cowed by fear. But they said the shooting at the Pulse nightclub underscores day-to-day threats faced by gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, even amid hard-fought progress in gaining acceptance and legal rights.
San Francisco law enforcement officials would not comment on how security might be beefed up after a gunman in Orlando killed at least 49 people early Sunday before being fatally shot by police. But according to one source familiar with Pride planning, guests at the festivities can expect more patrolling police officers as well as snipers and bomb-sniffing dogs.
Chaplin told reporters that “there are no threats presently” to San Francisco Pride. He urged residents to report potential threats.
“Oftentimes, someone knows something in advance,” Chaplin said. “And if they’ll reach out to us and let us know, then at the very least, we can investigate it and stop it before it happens or minimize the damage.”
Hours after the Florida rampage, Santa Monica police arrested a man who allegedly had a car full of guns, ammunition and bomb-making materials and was planning to attend Los Angeles’ gay pride festival that day. Law enforcement officials considered canceling the annual parade, according to the Los Angeles Times, but went forward with the event with increased security.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said in a statement Monday that the city would “continue to lead in the celebration of diversity and show the world despite the horror of Orlando, we will stand together with our LGBT community to celebrate Pride.”
He said the city is “working closely with the San Francisco Pride organizers and our public safety agencies in a coordinated effort to make our renowned San Francisco Pride celebration an event where everyone can freely express themselves.”
Supervisor Scott Wiener, whose district includes the Castro, said that beyond the Pride events, “bars and clubs are looking for guidance from police.”
“This isn’t about having the police in bars and clubs,” he said. “This is about making sure the bars and clubs have security plans in place that match the current reality we face given what happened (Sunday), and making sure the police know about those plans so that they can respond effectively.”
The pall cast over the Pride festivities this year is a marked contrast to the jubilation of last year, when the U.S. Supreme Court had just issued its ruling legalizing same-sex marriage.
“It feels like when we make progress, others hate it and then have to hurt us,” said Sam Judice, while drinking a cup of coffee Monday morning at Eureka Cafe in the Castro, which his husband owns. “They feel if they can intimidate us, kill us, then progress will go away. But you know, it’s an idea. It’s not a person. And hopefully that idea will stay rooted.”
Judice said he still plans to attend Pride events, but will be more “thoughtful and aware” of his surroundings.
A few feet away, a group of 15 teenage girls ate ice cream in the cafe. They were part of a church youth group from Tequesta, Fla., just south of Orlando. Youth minister Julie Bird said the tour of the Castro took on extra significance after Sunday’s shooting.
“It reinforces the importance of mobilizing and being understanding and loving and supporting everybody. We are all made in God’s image … whatever religion we are,” Bird said. “The spreading of hate can be a very horrible thing.”