FBI and DHS warn that terrorists could target Pride events in June

The FBI and Department of Homeland security issued a joint public service announcement last week warning that foreign terrorist organizations, or FTOs, could target events during LGBTQ Pride Month.

“Foreign terrorist organizations or supporters may seek to exploit increased gatherings associated with the upcoming June 2024 Pride Month,” the announcement reads. “FTO efforts to commit or inspire violence against holiday celebrations, including Pride celebrations or LGBTQIA+-related venues, are compounded by the current heightened threat environment in the United States and other western countries.”

Officials cited “ISIS messaging” focused on anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and the arrest of three alleged ISIS sympathizers for an attempted knife attack at a Pride parade in Vienna, Austria, last year as reasons for concern. 

They also referenced the upcoming eighth anniversary of the 2016 Pulse nightclub mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, which left 49 people dead and 53 wounded.

Officials did not name another foreign terrorist organization other than ISIS. They also did not cite a specific city or particular Pride event that was of heightened concern as a potential target.

Pride groups and local law enforcement agencies that organize and protect events in some of the nation’s largest cities sought to reassure attendees.

“We can’t run and hide, and we can’t stop living our lives because hatemongers want us to,” NYC Pride’s executive director, Sandra Perez, told NBC New York. “We will do what we always do, which is work with law enforcement and our private security to make sure this is as safe as possible.”

A spokesperson for the New York City Police Department said in an email to NBC News on Wednesday that the department “remains ever-ready and ever-vigilant” in protecting New Yorkers this Pride. 

“The New York Police Department provides a significant and complex counterterrorism overlay to the events and celebrations around Pride month each June in New York City,” the spokesperson said. “The department’s Intelligence and Counterterrorism Bureau also closely monitors all relevant streams of intelligence, in real time, as they relate to foreign terrorist groups or domestic violent extremists.”

A spokesperson for San Francisco Pride said in a statement to NBC Bay Area on Wednesday that the group takes all potential threats “seriously” and is working closely with law enforcement. 

“As in previous years, we will monitor any potential risks and plan accordingly to ensure a secure and enjoyable experience for everyone who joins us to celebrate Pride,” the spokesperson added.

Brandon Wolf, a Pulse nightclub shooting survivor who is now a spokesperson for the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group, the Human Rights Campaign, said in a text message on Wednesday that “Pride is a defiant demand for a world where everyone is free to be themselves without fear of hate and violence.” 

“This alert, on the eve of 8 years since Pulse, is a good reminder to stay vigilant,” Wolf said. “But the greatest antidotes to the threat of hate are living out loud, celebrating Pride defiantly, loving without apology, and waving our flags higher than ever before.”

In addition to foreign threats, Pride events have faced threats from domestic actors in recent years.

Last year, a Kansas man was arrested on charges of threatening to bomb and “commit a mass shooting” at an LGBTQ Pride event in Nashville, Tennessee. In 2022, police arrested 31 people affiliated with the white nationalist group Patriot Front for suspicion of rioting at a Pride event in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. And in 2021, authorities arrested a Long Island man who they said threatened to attack New York City’s Pride march with “firepower” that would “make the 2016 Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting look like a cakewalk.”

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