Security ramped up for upcoming US gay pride events

Hundreds marched from the Texas State Capitol to 4th Avenue and Colorado Street for a second vigil for the victims of the Orlando shooting. Over a thousand candles were handed out. (Lauren Can't Reid)

CHICAGO (AP) — The huge crowds expected to attend gay pride parades around the United States in the coming weeks will be greeted by more police officers and ramped-up security measures as a means to protect them in the wake of the mass shooting in a gay nightclub in Florida.

While many federal and local authorities around the U.S. say they have not received information on any credible threats, Houston is investigating a threat that was made against the parade in a tweet. Meanwhile, authorities from Denver to Chicago to New Orleans are tightening security with bag searches, more police officers and private security workers and more crowd-control barriers.

In Chicago, where nearly 1 million people have attended the pride parade in previous years, better security — including 200 additional uniformed and plainclothes officers — will be assigned to this weekend's PrideFest and next weekend's parade out of "an abundance of caution," Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said Thursday.

Parade organizers themselves also are providing additional security at the city's request — hiring 160 off-duty police officers and other security professionals, 70 more than worked the parade last year.

The FBI also said it would take an active role, gathering intelligence on any possible threat to the parade and sharing that information with Chicago police. The FBI also echoed Johnson's plea to the public to quickly report any suspicious activity.

Houston police also are increasing security for the city's gay pride parade on June 25. Acting Police Chief Martha Montalvo said the department is investigating a threat that was made in a tweet earlier this week that indicated there would be a "massive shooting" at the parade.

"We take all threats seriously and we are investigating it and we have notified and are working in conjunction with the FBI," she said. "But at this point I don't have anything solid in terms of specifics."

In Denver, organizers of this Sunday's PrideFest, said the 300,000 people expected to attend will see more fences, more searches of bags and other security measures.

"We're making security a top priority," said organizer Debra Pollock, chief executive officer of the GLBT Community Center of Colorado, which is holding that city's event.

And in New Orleans, city officials say that security will be beefed up this weekend in the popular French Quarter for the city's annual gay pride celebrations, announcing that large numbers of police officers and state troopers will be on duty.

It's unknown how last weekend's rampage at Orlando club Pulse that left 49 people dead will affect attendance at the popular parades and festivals.

But in Chicago, the parade coordinator Richard Pfeiffer said the attack may increase attendance for the 47th parade.

"Our history shows that we beat back hate like this by coming out and coming together and being in public," he said. "The feedback we are getting is that more people want to come out (to demonstrate) they won't be pushed back into the closet."


Associated Press writers Steven K. Paulson in Denver, Cain Burdeau in New Orleans and Juan A. Lozano in Houston contributed to this report.