Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Vancouver Pride Society president reassures public about July event

Vancouver Pride Society president reassures public about July event

People take part in a candlelight vigil Sunday outside the Vancouver Art Gallery. MARK VAN MANEN / PNG

The day after a tragic massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., the president of the Vancouver Pride Society sought to allay the concerns of those who might be afraid to attend next month’s popular pride parade in Vancouver.
Alan Jernigan said Monday the society will work closely with police authorities to conduct proper risk assessments before the event, which historically draws crowds in the hundreds of thousands.
Jernigan said he understands there is considerable fear following the shooting rampage at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando early Sunday morning, which left at least 50 dead and an equal number injured.
But he stressed that such an event, which is being reported as the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, cannot be allowed to silence the voices of the LGBTQ2+ community.
“Every year, we work really closely with Vancouver police and with private security and we are continuing to do that his year,” Jernigan said. “I understand that there is fear out there … it was a terrible, tragic event. And you know, I think we can’t let hatred and terror silence our voices. We need to respond to this by being seen and heard.”
Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old, a New York-born private security guard with alleged sympathies to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), was killed at around 5 a.m. Sunday in a shootout with police following a tense, hours-long standoff.
Earlier that morning, he had walked into the Pulse nightclub and, armed with an assault rifle and handgun, opened fire on a packed house enjoying Latin-themed night.
Jernigan said he was in Kelowna when he learned of the shooting. He promptly headed to Vancouver to participate in a candlelight vigil Sunday night in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery, one of many held across the country in solidarity with the victims of Mateen’s rampage.
“It was a very traumatizing experience to watch unfold,” Jernigan said. “The other side of that, was the amazing solidarity and love that the community expressed last night at the vigil and I think will continue to express.”
Vancouver police Sgt. Randy Fincham said Monday that the VPD assess public events on a case-by-case basis to determine the appropriate response. He said authorities are planning for a number of events this summer in Vancouver, but declined to offer details.
“At this time, we are not aware of any threats specific to the City of Vancouver,” Fincham wrote in an email. “The threat level in Canada remains at medium.”
Ron Orr, the chief financial officer of the Granville Entertainment Group and a member of Vancouver’s BarWatch program, said the Orlando shooting prompted a discussion Monday morning about local security risks. Orr noted, however, that there are considerable differences between the U.S. and Canada in terms of gun legislation and access to firearms, which make so-called copycat incidents less likely here.
“You have to be aware of it, for sure,” he said. “(But) we are in a very different environment. There is always risk, you can’t downplay it, but personally, I just don’t see that kind of activity happening in Vancouver. ”
Vancouver’s pride weekend is July 29-31. The parade, in its 38th year, begins at noon on the 31st. As in past years, Jernigan is expecting a large turnout.
I think people are going to recognize that we can’t let something like this silence the voices of the LGBTQ2 plus community,” he said. “I think the celebration this year is going to be amazing.”
— with files from Postmedia


http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/vancouver-pride-society-president-reassures-public-about-july-event

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