The killing of 49 people Sunday at Orlando’s LGBT nightclub Pulse has given rise to questions about security for Charlotte’s upcoming gay pride festival, which is expected to draw 120,000 people to uptown Aug. 20-21.
Charlotte Pride has a long history of attracting protesters and critics of the gay community. In fact, protesters outnumbered attendees 3 to 1 a decade ago, say organizers.
Gay Pride festivals are now on high alert around the country, partly because of the Orlando killings Sunday, but also because a man was arrested the same day trying to bring an arsenal of weapons to the LA Pride festival in West Hollywood, Calif.
Among the things found in his car: Three assault rifles, high-capacity magazines, ammunition and a 5-gallon bucket with chemicals that could be used to create an explosive device, officials said.
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Charlotte police say they have not learned of any threats being made against Charlotte Pride this year.
Matt Comer, a board member of Charlotte Pride, says the public need not worry about security at the Charlotte event this year. He spoke Monday night at a vigil for the 49 dead in Orlando and said Charlotte Pride is working closely with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police, the Charlotte Fire Department and other divisions of local government.
“Charlotte Pride has an excellent working relationship with CMPD and other city and county officials,” Comer said. “Event security is a topic we address with them every year, and we are fully confident and trusting of the CMPD expertise. ... It’s taken seriously every year.”
The Charlotte Pride organization also has a large volunteer contingent that helps make sure attendees don’t clash with protesters. In recent years, the number of protesters has dwindled, but some suspect a resurgence this year might result from the state’s recent House Bill 2 controversy.
HB2 is a state law passed hurriedly this year that negated city policies extending civil rights protections to the LGBT community, including the right in Charlotte for transgender people to use the restroom of their gender identity in government buildings, schools and universities.
The law prompted a national outcry against the state’s Republican leadership and has resulted in millions of dollars of lost income for North Carolina.
However, Comer said he believes the HB2 controversy is just as likely to bring out more LGBT supporters this year.
“On August 20 and 21, I expect to see more than 120,000,” he said at the vigil Monday. “We will stand proud and loud and united.”