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Police chief encourages vigilance during Pride parade

Mark Parker

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From left: St. Peterburg Fire Rescue Captain Garth Swingle; Dr. Byron Green-Calisch, president of St. Pete Pride's board of directors; and Police Chief Anthony Holloway discuss safety measures Tuesday ahead of the state's largest LGBTQ+ celebration. Photos by Mark Parker.

FBI and Department of Homeland Security officials announced May 10 that “foreign terrorist organizations or supporters may seek to exploit increased gatherings associated with … Pride Month.”

The St. Petersburg Police Department expects over 200,000 people to descend upon the city’s downtown waterfront Saturday for one of the nation’s largest Pride parades. Chief Anthony Holloway remained confident in the city’s ability to protect revelers at a Tuesday morning press conference.

He also stressed that the department has not discovered any credible threats. However, Holloway repeatedly encouraged attendees to look out for one another and remain vigilant before, during and after the LGBTQ celebrations.

“Please help out,” Holloway said. “If you see something, say something. Find the nearest police officer and let him or her know what’s going on. Please don’t be that person that said, ‘I should have.’”

Holloway said the SPPD is in constant contact with its federal counterparts. The agency also monitors online activity.

While the police chief would not release officer numbers, the department typically takes an all-hands-on-deck approach during Pride festivities. Those include myriad uniformed officers and plain-clothes detectives.

Law enforcement officials will coordinate their response from the SPPD’s mobile command center. Marine units will patrol the bay, and Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office air support will remain on standby in case of emergencies.

Holloway said officers would also utilize surveillance equipment and license plate readers. “So, if something does happen, we’ll have a way to track what happened before the incident and after the incident.”

“We’ve been very fortunate,” Holloway added. “I think, last year, we arrested maybe one person for disorderly conduct.”

Dr. Byron Green-Calisch, president of St. Pete Pride’s board of directors, said his organization coordinates safety measures with the SPPD and St. Pete Fire Rescue. He noted that event attendees must pass through metal detectors and stressed that guns and knives are impermissible.

Federal agencies said the May 10 announcement was to increase awareness of potential threats. Just over a week later, vandals twice defaced the freshly repainted Progress Pride street mural in St. Petersburg’s Grand Central District.

However, Green-Calisch said the LGBTQ community is known for its resilience and is always ready to “bounce back and show up.” He noted that the event’s focus is fostering joy and celebration.

“For that reason alone, it’s incredibly important for our people to come out and show support – both our allies and community members,” Green-Calisch added. “I’m a new dad, so I’m more sensitive now than ever before to making sure that everyone who comes to our event makes it home.”

A sea of people flock to the downtown waterfront during the 2023 St. Pete Pride Parade.

He and Holloway urged attendees to show up well before the parade begins at 6 p.m. Green-Calisch said a bevy of corporate vendors, local entrepreneurs and entertainers will keep the crowds busy.

The parade will again begin rather than end at Albert Whitted Park. City officials reversed the route in 2023 to improve traffic flow and minimize disruptions. The St. Pete Pier’s parking lots close at 4:30 and will not reopen until much later Saturday night.

Green-Calisch urged attendees to leave their pets at home due to the expected heat. He called the Grand Central street festival a “barn burner. It is going to be hot.”

Heat exhaustion is St. Pete Fire Rescue’s top concern. The agency provided first aid to over 80 people during 2023’s Pride Weekend, with nine requiring emergency transportation to local hospitals.

Captain Garth Swingle said symptoms include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea and increased thirst. He encouraged attendees to hydrate before, during and after the events – especially those who are consuming alcohol.

Swingle wants people to monitor their friends and family for signs of distress. Like Holloway, he also offered words of encouragement.

“We’re prepared – for a Band-Aid all the way to a catastrophic event,” Swingle said. “So, know that you should feel safe with the St. Pete Fire Rescue team.”

Attendees can text “tip 411” or call 911 if they see something suspicious or need assistance.

The parade route and pertinent safety information.

 

 

 

1 Comment

1 Comment

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    Steven Brady

    June 21, 2024at2:26 am

    Foreign terrorist organizations is nothing more than saying Islamic terrorist groups. Interesting how they try to hide the ball even with regard to public safety. Are these foreign Islamic terrorist groups now a protected class where they can’t be mentioned or identified even as a group?

    This smells of the same made up story about transgender people getting murdered and beaten up. That story didn’t hold water for more than a week I think. Until people looked at the numbers and the reality of the situation. A completely made up story, just like the one about about police killing unarmed black men. Because of racism. That was a huge whopper, one that gullible people still believe. And others to use for their political advantage.

    Don’t I remember recently all the Gays for Gaza and Hamas Protests at our universities and even in downtown St. Petersburg?

    Even now we see some gay groups supporting people in the Middle East who would throw them off of buildings or stone them to death.
    People who truly believe that they will be rewarded in heaven for doing it.

    And now the same Islamic terrorist groups purportedly are hunting them here?

    Hard to believe anyone could believe that story.

    I think they have enough on their plate where they are. Not that they wouldn’t like to do it…

    The irony is thick these days.

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