Nearly a million people, donning rainbow clothing, body paint and balloons, packed San Francisco’s streets for its 46th annual LGBT Pride Celebration and Parade on June 26. The event began in 1970 and serves to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Riots against police raids on queer spaces and to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community.
But even today, the security of LGBTQIA+ spaces is often uncertain. On June 12, a shooter killed 49 people at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. The San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) raised concerns and worked to avert a similar attack at San Francisco’s Pride.
SFPD did not disclose security details from past years. However, the SFPD media relations unit confirmed that, although there was no “credible” threat, there were more officers and increased security at Pride to make sure attendees “had a good time and felt safe.”
“Anytime you have something like this happen, you worry about a copycat,” said SFPD Interim Police Chief Toney Chaplin to the San Francisco Gate.
Many people had positive experiences, including attendee Tyra Ward, a woman wearing a gold sequined crop top with a rainbow pompom keychain on her side. “I’m just here for the love,” Ward said. “Love is love is love. I’m here to support that; I don’t live in fear. It’s nice to see all these lovers out here. It makes my heart happy.”
Pride represents a safe space that is explicitly accepting of this love. To protect it, metal detectors and bag searches were at every entrance, a change from previous years.
“Although there are no known threats, we have an increased amount of officers,” said SFPD Lt. Troy Dangerfield who was on duty at Pride. “You can’t go 10 feet without seeing [police officers].”
The security additions to Pride were hard to miss, but they didn’t detract from the effervescent atmosphere and colorful celebration.
A parade down Market Street kicked off the day. Crowds waved rainbow flags and thronged the sidewalk barricades to get a glimpse of the floats and marchers. One marching group held a banner that spanned the width of the street and read “We Are Orlando” — a phrase that the crowd repeated throughout the day — with the names of each victim printed on it.
Of the many music stages, one had the “Pulse” nightclub logo displayed next to “#OrlandoStrong,” written in rainbow letters. Between sets of Latin club music, Pride participants held a minute of silence for the victims of the shooting.
The hub of Pride was San Francisco’s Civic Center, which includes City Hall. Crowds surrounded the main stage there and watched musical acts and speeches about the intersectionality of gender, class and race within the LGBTQIA+ community. From there, people packed into nearby streets to enjoy kebabs, EDM shows and line dance lessons. Butts of smoke from the barbecues drifted over face painting booths, LGBTQIA+ flag vendors and prize games.
Leslie Reed sold shirts printed with purple feminist symbols topped with hearts at her booth. “Orlando” was stamped across each symbol.
Reed, a woman wearing purple lipstick, said she was “feeling grief and thought of this design.”
Many people relaxed on a large field by the main stage, including John Sirles, a man adorned with rainbow stickers. “I’m here to participate more in the LGBT community this year around, rather than [just] coming to see what’s going on,” Sirles said.
He said he wanted to be more informed, particularly because of the tragedy in Orlando. “I did not want fear to stop me, and I wanted to keep going,” Sirles said. “I wanted to be here with my friends and family.”