Pride is arriving at a tense moment, which is why organizers say it’s as vital as ever

Long Beach Pride is a celebration, and this year was meant to be especially triumphant, with the parade and festival returning after the last two years of cancelations caused by the pandemic. But instead of COVID-19, there’s a new weight on organizers’ minds.

This weekend’s event is taking place amid heightened security concerns and an especially polarized political environment that’s seemed to come from all angles:

  • There have been recent high-profile mass shootings in public spaces, including one at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois that killed seven and wounded dozens.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24, which activists fear could open the door to overturning legalized same-sex marriage.
  • Hundreds of state laws have been introduced across the U.S. that target LGBTQ and especially trans youths in matters of health care, sports and restroom access.
  • Across the state and country, far-right groups have ratcheted up rhetoric against LGBTQ causes and—in some cases—groups such as the Proud Boys have even disrupted events like Drag Queen Story Hour.
  • And last month, Long Beach seized guns from a man they feared could use Pride as the target for a racially motivated mass shooting.

But these threats are nothing new, said City Councilmember Cindy Allen, who is serving as the Morris Kight Political Grand Marshal for this year’s Pride Parade. Resisting oppression has long been part of the pride movement.

“Violence against LGBTQ people, especially trans people, has been a problem for decades,” Allen said in an emailed statement. “They aren’t scared and I’m not scared, and I trust our police department to have a strong security plan in place to protect all of us.”

Police, too, say they’re ready. There are “no known credible threats of violence” against the celebration, an LBPD spokesperson said, but, “We are maintaining a vigilant posture and increasing our patrol presence through the city, including at public events.”

Elsa Martinez, president of Long Beach Pride, is cautious in her outlook for the weekend’s events. The Highland Park shooting on July Fourth “changed the tone” for her, she said.

“It scared me a little,” she said. “But we have had threats in the past, so we’re not unfamiliar with them.”

The first Pride Parade took place on Ocean Boulevard in 1984, with just a few people protesting against the event that year.

But the next year, Judi Doyle, one of Long Beach Pride’s founders, received a message on her answering machine saying that she’d be killed if she marched in the parade. Doyle still took part in the parade, but at the request of the LBPD, she agreed to wear a bulletproof vest, according to Q Voice News (Doyle died earlier this year).

There was no violence other than a few protesters throwing eggs, according to Q Voice News.

As late as 2019, apparent threats against the parade appeared on 8chan, an online message board that was heavily used by far-right extremists. After the LBPD deemed the threats “not credible,” the parade went on as usual, according to the LA Times.

Martinez said that this year she and the Pride staff have been working closely with the LBPD on security, as well as employing their own security arrangements.

“It’s hectic, but we want to be safe,” Martinez said.

Martinez said she and her staff have met with LBPD personnel a few times during planning for the events, and that the department has reviewed their festival site plans. Still, Martinez said she thinks that “some of our guests will be nervous and scared, honestly.”

Recent legal rulings at the state and federal levels haven’t helped matters, according to Martinez. She said the Supreme Court is “trying to bring things back” to earlier days.

Though the court’s recent ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization only overturned the earlier precedent that legalized abortion throughout the country, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his opinion that he hoped the court would also “reconsider” earlier precedents, including the 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

Should that happen, it’s likely same-sex marriage could become illegal in California again because of Proposition 8, which voters approved in 2008. Though a U.S. District Court judge eventually ruled that the measure, which outlawed same-sex marriage, was unconstitutional, it remains in the California Constitution.

Though LBTGQ activists are pushing for a new ballot measure that would officially excise Prop. 8’s language from the state constitution, it’s not expected until 2024, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Martinez also said she’s very aware of the hundreds of anti-LGBTQ laws that have been introduced and passed at the state level throughout the country. “There’s a lot of ‘not good’ out there,” she said.

The proposed laws especially target trans individuals, many of which criminalize health care for trans youth, prohibit access to appropriate restrooms and bar trans people from playing sports.

“We’re here for them,” Martinez said of those being targeted by the new laws. “We’re here to be visible, to be loud, to support them. We’re not quiet.”

For that reason, Martinez said the LGBTQ community wants, and needs, events like this. The parade and festival show that the community has made it through the pandemic, and show LGBTQ people that they’re not alone.

“We want to show them that Long Beach is here to celebrate and be joyful for our community,” she said. “The LGBTQ+ community has gone through a lot in the last few years. We want to celebrate.”

Allen agreed.

“Long Beach is open and welcoming and inclusive, and I expect this year’s Long Beach Pride Parade and Festival to be celebratory in defiance of the fear and sadness arising from acts of violence elsewhere in the country and the recent harmful and wrong Supreme Court decision,” she said.

Long Beach Pride is this weekend; here’s everything you need to know

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Anthony Pignataro is an investigative reporter and editor for the Long Beach Post. He has close to three decades of experience in journalism leading numerous investigations and long-form journalism projects for the OC Weekly and other publications. He joined the Post in May 2021.
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