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Columbus Police Stepping Up Security For Pride Festival

Raymond Wambsgans

Stonewall Columbus is hosting its 37th year of the Columbus Pride Pride Festival and Parade in celebration of the LGBTQ community. Ahead of the festival's kick-off on Friday, Columbus Police are ramping up security measures.

Columbus Police Chief Kim Jacobs did not specify a number, but said there will be many police officers in uniform at the weekend's events, including the parade.

“Beware we’ll also have officers in plain clothes that will be watching for any type of alerts and suspicious behavior,” Jacobs says. “So feel free to give us a call.”

Stonewall Columbus anticipates a crowd of around 500,000 people for the festival. Interim executive director Deb Steele says she trusts police will be helpful, but understands if people do not feel comfortable approaching them.

“I feel very safe and excited for the event," Steele says. "But at the same time, just to keep ourselves aware of our surroundings and to make sure if some people in our community don’t feel like approaching police officers, that we have to keep lines of communication open."

Black Queer & Intersectional Columbus, or BQIC, is hosting analternative festival this weekend after a year-long fight with Stonewall Columbus. At least year's Pride Parade, four activists were arrested during a protest against what activists call police brutality against LGBTQ people of color.

“We want everyone to understand that we’re here to protect everyone. Even protestors," Steele says. "So again, that’s why there’s folks with radios on their hips. If they’re intimidated by the uniform to contact one of our many of hundreds of volunteers from Stonewall.”

BQIC did not invite Columbus Police to participate in the alternative Columbus Community Pride Festival, and Jacobs says they are honoring that decision.

“We don’t plan any police involvement,” Jacobs says. “They’re having a private party on private property, so there’s no reason for us to be there as long as everything stays legal and we don’t get any calls. We don’t plan to be there.”

Jacobs urges people to text 888-777 the message "Pride 2018" to receive safety-related information from police for Saturday. Police will use the same text message alert system for Red White & Boom! next month.

“Once you send that, you’ll be able to get a link. That means you’re now in our system,” Jacobs says. “Any safety-related information or information you need to know about the parade Saturday will be sent out.”

The Pride Parade starts at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 16, at Goodale & High St. in the Short North.

Adora Namigadde was a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU News in February 2017. A Michigan native, she graduated from Wayne State University with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in French.