Security Was a Top Priority at Dallas Pride Parade

gay pride
AP Photo

“Solidarity through pride” may have been the theme of the 33rd Dallas LGBT parade but security was the top priority at Sunday’s day-long festivities.

Dallas Pride marked the city’s first large event since the tragic police ambush and the Orlando nightclub massacre.

With heightened law enforcement and other measures implemented, the parade and festival went along smoothly and without incident. An estimated 45,000 turned out for the parade in the Oak Lawn neighborhood. Miller Lite sponsored a festival at nearby Reverchon Park.

Dallas Police Department (DPD) Public Information Officer Monica Cordova told KDFW: “This is the first large event we are having since the Orlando shooting and the shooting that happened downtown.”

Organizers beefed up police presence this year largely in response to the June terrorist attack at Orlando’s Pulse. Gunman Omar Mateen pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Facebook posts and during a 911 call from inside the gay nightclub where he opened fire on innocent people killing 49 and injuring many others. Police killed Mateen during the attack.

The Dallas pride event was “gun free.” Organizers wrestled with the notion of whether or not to allow properly licensed conceal and carry gun holders to bring firearms to the event. Dallas Pride Security Director Jeremy Liebbe previously told KXAS they decided not to allow weapons.

“My recommendation to everybody has been ‘use good judgment and realize we will have somewhere in the neighborhood of 130 police officers, who, that if something happens, will not know that you’re a good citizen trying to help,’” he said.

Active and retired Dallas police officers were stationed along the parade route. While many law enforcement officials were visible, others, like Homeland Security agents, remained out of plain sight during the festivities. According to Liebbe, at least 87 off-duty and over 30 on-duty Dallas police officers patrolled the parade and festival. He said Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban paid for the increased patrol presence.

This year, organizers added multiple police security cameras. People could only bring clear bags into the festival, mirroring policy at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys. Since the Orlando terrorist attack, pride events around the country tightened their security protocols. In late June, a tweet threatening an attack against the gay community was made prior to Houston’s Pride celebration. Houston police increased law enforcement presence as a precaution for their parade, held only weeks after the Pulse shootings.

Dallas Pride security decisions were made prior to the weekend’s bombing in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood that injured 29, New Jersey’s Seaside Park pipe bombs, and the Islamic State claimed knife attacker who stabbed nine in a Minnesota mall.

The yearly Dallas LGBT fete has been safe with a very low number of arrests over the years, said Liebbe, although, four men attacked a 29-year-old gay man after last year’s parade. KDFW reported the alleged attackers repeatedly punched, kicked, and hit a gay man with a baseball bat. They called him derogatory names and robbed their victim who was hospitalized for a fractured skull, numerous abrasions, cuts, and bruises. Although no arrests were made, police investigated the incident as a hate crime.

Dallas Police Chief David Brown attended the parade. He was met with cheers and well wishes.

Brown, a 33-year DPD veteran, recently announced his retirement. He gained much praise for his handling of the July 7 police attack when shooter Micah X. Johnson opened fire, killing four Dallas policemen and one Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) officer at the end of a Black Lives Matter protest. The Chief made the unprecedented decision to use a bomb robot to kill Johnson when other options put officers “at great danger.”

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