What’s Behind the Security Warnings for Pride Events

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This June, as many travelers make plans to attend Pride Month events around the world, including New York City’s giant parade on June 30, security concerns are casting a shadow on celebrations.

A travel advisory issued last week by the State Department advises U.S. citizens overseas to “exercise increased caution” at Pride celebrations, events and places popular with the L.G.B.T.Q. community because of the potential for terrorist attacks or acts of violence.

That advisory follows a joint public service announcement on May 10 from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that describes an increased security threat against Pride events in the United States and elsewhere and warns that terrorist organizations or supporters may seek to target the gatherings.

Neither alert mentions any specific threats or locations, nor do they advise against traveling. Here’s what to know.

The State Department is aware, its alert said, of increased potential for violence inspired by foreign terrorist organizations against the L.G.B.T.Q. community.

The F.B.I. and D.H.S. announcement pointed to a February 2023 anti-L.G.B.T.Q. article circulated online in pro-Islamic State circles. The ISIS messaging also encouraged followers to conduct attacks on “soft targets,” typically public places or events that are easily accessible.

Last June, the announcement said, the Austrian authorities foiled a plot to attack attendees at the Pride parade in Vienna with knives and a vehicle, arresting three people accused of being ISIS sympathizers.

The announcement also cited the eighth anniversary, on June 12, of the mass shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., in which an attacker claiming allegiance to ISIS killed 49 people.

The efforts to inspire violence against holiday celebrations, including Pride, are “compounded by the current heightened threat environment in the United States and other Western countries,” the announcement said.

Threats made against L.G.B.T.Q. people by terrorist organizations or their sympathizers are not uncommon.

Terrorist organizations can use such threats as a recruitment tool, allowing them to capitalize on shared prejudices, explained Colin P. Clarke, the director of research at the Soufan Group, a New York-based intelligence and security consulting firm.

“It’s another arrow in the quiver, and it allows groups to cast a wider net,” he wrote in an email. “Some potential recruits will be motivated by sectarianism, others by anti-Western propaganda, and yet others are motivated by homophobia. So, if it resonates, terrorist groups will use it as a form of incitement.”

The State Department maintains a web page with information tailored to L.G.B.T.Q. travelers, but a global security alert for Pride events is rare.

“The State Department’s recent worldwide travel advisory specifically targeting the L.G.B.T.Q.+ community is unlike any we’ve seen before, but it also aligns with the escalation of anti-L.G.B.T.Q.+ actions globally,” wrote John Tanzella, the president of IGLTA, an L.G.B.T.Q. travel network, in an email.

“The first rule is to follow the advice and guidance of the Pride organization: They know their city and they know their event, and they will be working with police to keep you safe,” Steve Taylor, a board member of the European Pride Organizers Association and a leader of Copenhagen Pride, wrote in an email.

“Second, look out for each other,” he added. “Our eyes and ears are what will keep us safe. If something doesn’t look right, say something. And third, stick to the main events and make sure others know where you are going.”

In places like New York City, Pride event organizers are working with law enforcement and private security teams, as well as encouraging people to follow their safety guidance, which includes advice like having a buddy system and reporting any suspicious activity.

“There are bad actors,” said Sandra Perez, executive director of NYC Pride, the organization that sponsors the city’s Pride March, which drew 75,000 participants and about two million spectators last year, according to organizers. “What we know is we can’t allow their threats to kind of dictate our visibility.”

While people should always take safety seriously, she noted, there is also a power in the unity of showing up and celebrating.

When it comes to attendance at the march, Ms. Perez said, “The reality is, rain has sometimes a bigger impact than some of these other threats.”


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