Safety Warnings for Pride Month Events: What You Need to Know

This June, as many travelers make plans to attend Pride Month events around the world, including New York City’s giant parade on June 30, safety concerns are overshadowing the celebrations.

A travel advisory issued last week by the State Department advises U.S. citizens abroad to “exercise increased caution” at Pride celebrations, events and locations popular with the LGBTQ community due to the potential for terrorist attacks or acts of violence. violence.

That advisory follows a joint public service announcement on May 10 from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security outlining an increased security threat against Pride events in the United States and in other places and warns that terrorist organizations or their supporters may try to attack the gatherings.

Neither alert mentions specific threats or locations, nor advises against travel. This is what you should know.

The State Department is aware, according to its alert, of increased potential for violence inspired by foreign terrorist organizations against the LGBTQ community.

The FBI and DHS announcement targeted an anti-LGBTQ article from February 2023 that circulated online in pro-Islamic State circles. ISIS messages also encouraged its followers to carry out attacks against “soft targets,” typically easily accessible places or public events.

Last June, according to the announcement, Austrian authorities foiled a plot to attack attendees of the Pride parade in Vienna with knives and a vehicle, arresting three people accused of being ISIS sympathizers.

The announcement also cited the eighth anniversary, June 12, of the mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in which a gunman claiming allegiance to ISIS killed 49 people.

Efforts to inspire violence against holiday celebrations, including Pride, are “complicated by the current heightened threat environment in the United States and other Western countries,” the announcement said.

Threats made against LGBTQ people by terrorist organizations or their sympathizers are not uncommon.

Terrorist organizations can use these types of threats as a recruiting tool, allowing them to capitalize on shared prejudices, explained Colin P. Clarke, research director at the Soufan Group, a New York-based intelligence and security consulting firm.

“It’s another arrow in the quiver and allows groups to cast a wider net,” he wrote in an email. “Some potential recruits will be motivated by sectarianism, others by anti-Western propaganda, and still others by homophobia. “So if it resonates, terrorist groups will use it as a form of incitement.”

The State Department maintains a website with information tailored to LGBTQ travelers, but a global security alert for Pride events is rare.

“The State Department’s recent global travel advisory specifically targeting the LGBTQ+ community is unlike anything we’ve seen before, but it also aligns with the escalation of anti-LGBTQ+ actions globally,” wrote John Tanzella, president of IGLTA, an LGBTQ travel network. , in an email.

“The first rule is to follow the advice and guidance of the Pride organisation: they know their city and their event, and will work with the police to keep you safe,” Steve Taylor, board member of the European Pride Organisers. Association and leader of Copenhagen Pride, he wrote in an email.

“Secondly, take care of each other,” he added. “Our eyes and ears are what will keep us safe. If something doesn’t look right, say something. And third, stick to the main events and make sure others know where you’re going.”

In places like New York City, Pride event organizers are working with law enforcement and private security teams, as well as encouraging people to follow their safety guidelines, which include tips like having a buddy system and report any suspicious activity.

“There are bad actors,” said Sandra Pérez, executive director of NYC Pride, the organization that sponsors the city’s Pride March, which attracted 75,000 participants and about two million spectators last year, according to organizers. “What we know is that we cannot allow their threats to dictate our visibility.”

While people should always take safety seriously, he noted, there is also power in the unity of showing up and celebrating.

Regarding march attendance, Ms. Perez said, “The reality is that rain sometimes has a bigger impact than some of these other threats.”

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