The city of Charlotte’s decision to give police more power and leeway during the upcoming Charlotte Pride Festival and Parade has some organizers of the gay-pride event concerned.
Charlotte Pride is expected to draw 120,000 people to uptown Aug. 20-21, and it follows several high profile incidents of violence and threats made against LGBT people across the country.
The city’s Extraordinary Events designation is common for large events uptown, and it gives Charlotte Mecklenburg Police the ability to stop people and search their backpacks, among other powers.
Organizers of Charlotte Pride said in a news release that the designation “disappointed” them. However, event officials said Wednesday that it’s incorrect to say the group is lobbying to get the status changed.
Matt Comer of the Charlotte Pride board says the murder of 49 people at a gay Orlando nightclub and the June arrest of a man headed to LA Pride in West Hollywood with a cache of weapons has made the gay community fully aware of the possibilities it faces.
“It's been reported we are disputing this (designation) and we are not,” Comer says.
“We are simply having what I believe is a meaningful conversation with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police about the sensitivity certain marginalized groups might have to a stepped up police presence. And police are listening, which I think shows the positive relationship we have with police.”
The marginalized groups he refers to are the transgender community and African-Americans, both of which have had a strained relationship with law enforcement. The transgender community in particular is seen as vulnerable, after it became the target of the state’s House Bill 2. That law was passed in response to a Charlotte ordinance that allows transgender people to use the restroom of their gender identity.
HB2 also made clear that LGBT people will not get nondiscrimination protections in the state, and it nullified municipal nondiscrimination that included protections for LGBT people.
The city’s decision comes less than two months after the June mass shooting at gay night club in Orlando, in which 49 people were killed and 53 people were injured. The city created the Extraordinary Events ordinance leading up to the Democratic National Convention in 2012.