Austin will celebrate the LGBTQ+ community Saturday at the 29th annual Pride festival and parade, despite safety concerns raised following the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, last weekend.
In a statement, the Austin Gay and Lesbian Pride Foundation, which organizes the “official” Pride celebration, said security will be increased at this year’s festivities. Organizers reassured attendees – projected to be around 400,000 – that “safety is paramount ... in a climate of armed terror.”
Weapons are prohibited at the festival and parade, as in years past.
The El Paso suspect told police he was targeting Mexicans, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. Twenty-two people were killed in the attack Saturday, eight of them Mexican nationals. A day later, nine people were killed in Dayton, Ohio, including the suspect’s sibling, Jordan Cofer, a transgender man. The attacks brought the number of mass shootings this year up to 254.
Out Youth, which advocates for LGBTQ+ youth and will be marching in the parade, released a statement saying it could not ethically put youth in danger in “times such as these.” Though youth 17 and younger will no longer be allowed to participate in the march, they are invited to attend a watch party from 8 to 10 p.m. (To attend, email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
At a press conference Friday, the Austin Police Department urged Pride-goers to have a safety plan going into the parade.
“Personal safety starts with vigilance. Vigilance is simply paying attention and recognizing that there are things in the world that can hurt you,” Assistant Police Chief Justin Newsom said. “So pay attention to your surroundings, pay attention to the people around you.”
Newsom asked folks to report anything seemingly out of place to the many officers who will be on hand. The SWAT team, fire department and EMS will also be in attendance.
The Pride festival begins at 11 a.m. at Fiesta Gardens and the parade kicks off at 8 p.m. downtown. A full list of road closures in effect can be found here.