Wednesday, June 22, 2016

San Francisco Tightens Pride Parade Security

San Francisco public safety officials are taking no chances with this weekend’s Pride celebration after an attack this month at a gay nightclub in Orlando in which 49 people were massacred.

For the first time, there will be metal detectors — a combination of walk-through machines and handheld wands — at all entry points to Pride’s two-day celebration in Civic Center Plaza on Saturday and Sunday. People attending the two-day event also will not be permitted to bring in bags bigger than 18 by 18 inches, and bags will be searched. Visitors won’t be required to remove their shoes like at airports.

Pride spokesman Sam Singer said organizers and police have yet to decide how many entry points there will be. He also said it is undecided, who will pay for the metal detectors. Private security guards will operate them, and city officials said to expect lengthy lines to get into the event.

The two-day celebration will feature one main stage as well as 20 smaller stages and venues featuring music, performers and speakers. The festivities will last from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Mayor Ed Lee said city officials and other agencies met this morning to review security and emergency plans for this weekend's Pride celebrations, which are expected to draw as many as 1 million people.

There won’t be metal detectors or limitations on bag size at Sunday’s Pride parade, which begins at 10:30 a.m. at Market and Beale streets, and ends at Market and Eighth streets. But there will be a larger-than-usual police presence and a contingent of undercover officers will also patrol LGBT clubs.

Overall, the Police Department will deploy about 25 percent more officers for Pride events this year than last year, said Michael Redmond, deputy chief of the department’s operations bureau. Redmond couldn’t give an estimate of how many officers that equaled.

The extra security precautions seek to balance safety and fun. San Francisco Pride is one of the biggest events of its kind in the country, with an expected draw of about 1 million people. But the massacre at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub that killed 49 people, plus the gunman, and wounded dozens more has cast a pall on the normally festive occasion.

Anyone attending Pride events is being asked to stay vigilant and report anything suspicious to police or to Pride organizers and volunteers.

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