ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) - St. Pete Pride will go on as planned. Organizers said the attack at Orlando's Pulse nightclub will not silence one of the biggest LGBTQ events in the south.
"We immediately knew we were going to continue the event, moving forward," St. Pete Pride CEO Eric Skains said, adding he expects attendance at this year's celebration to be higher than ever. "We've received so many outpours on Facebook, emails, phone calls saying, 'I've never been to Pride before, but this is the year that I'm going to come. This is the year the community needs me to come out.'"
In light of Sunday's massacre at Pulse, a nightclub that caters to the LGBTQ community, St. Petersburg police are beefing up security for the four-day event, which typically draws more than 100,000 to the Grand Central District. Local, State and federal agencies, including the FBI, will be on hand to ensure the safety of everyone at this year's St. Pete Pride.
St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway said an initial proposal to move the event's famous night parade into daylight was quickly abandoned. Organizers and city officials are determined not to allow Sunday's attack change the annual celebration of love.
"You think back as to why Pride was formed. It was formed from violence, and I'll be damned if we're going to let violence stop us from going forward and celebrating," said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.
In addition to uniformed and undercover officers providing security at St. Pete Pride events, Skains said some groups participating in Saturday's parade have hired off-duty officers to provide armed security on their floats. Chief Holloway, however, cautioned against attendees from bringing firearms, legal or otherwise, to Pride.
"We have a hard time trying to identify who each other are, and if someone else pulls out a weapon, we're going to be looking at you and you're going to slow us down in our response time," said Holloway. "If you have a weapon, leave it at home. Let law enforcement do their job."
St. Pete Pride kicks off Thursday, June 23 and runs through Sunday the 26. For more information on Pride festivities, visit https://www.stpetepride.com/en