Event organizers, GLBT businesses expect big turnout for Denver PrideFest

Will safety concerns keep some people away?
Posted at 8:22 PM, Jun 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-17 22:22:04-04

Denver's PrideFest celebration is one of the nation's largest, but with the mass shooting at a gay bar in Orlando still fresh in many minds, there are questions about how many people may avoid taking part in the celebration due to safety concerns.

"A few friends have... said they're concerned," said Matt DiOrio, an M Uptown customer, "but they want to come out and show their support more now, and not let fear be the overriding factor."

"I'm not concerned (about security,)" said Carlos Mendoza, another M Uptown customer. "I'm just  more aware of what's happening."

M Uptown Manager Jackie Summers told Denver7 there will be off-duty officers on hand, "but the average customer won't even be aware of it."

When asked if some customers will avoid the celebration because of Orlando, Summers replied, "Those of us who are used to fighting battles are going to say, 'We don't want to be bullied anymore. We don't want to be put in a position where we're scared,' I think a lot of us are going to be out there celebrating like nothing happened."

Summers said age may be a factor in the way some people react to that fear.

"Kids in their 20s are able to walk down the street with their boyfriends or their partners, hand in hand, and don't know how much we've struggled to get those rights," Summers said, "so (some) may (stay away out of fear) because they're not used to fighting that battle." 

Denver Police say they will be out in force during PrideFest, the Gay Pride Parade and the Juneteenth Music Fest which will take place Saturday in  nearby Five Points.

Department spokeswoman Raquel Lopez told Denver7, "We haven't received any credible threats, so it's been a good, positive thing for us, for the event and for all the people who are going to come down and have a good time."

PrideFest organizers say they don't anticipate any problems, but have trained staff and volunteers in the unlikely event of an active shooter situation.

"We've come up with a thorough safety plan to address any incidents that might happen," said Rex Fuller, Vice President of Communications and Corporate Giving at the GLBT Community Center.

"The first defense is to get away from the situation as quickly as possible,' he said. "We've trained staff and volunteers on how to quickly evacuate the festival in the event of an emergency.  If evacuating isn't possible, we've discussed sheltering options and we've also had training on how to potentially fight back to stop the shooting from getting worse."

Fuller said emotions are a little higher because of the Orlando shooting.

"People are very nervous," he said, "but I would also say... I've seen community groups come together and officials from the city come together to help support this event.  In some ways, I'm starting to feel safer, because I feel they have a good plan in place."