‘Kill all gays’, online hate and threats forces cancellations of some US pride events | News24

  • American pride planners have scaled back the celebrations amid an outpouring of hate online.
  • The anti-LGBTQ rhetoric resulted in the cancellation of several events.
  • Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has signed bills banning youth from drag performances.

A rise in anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and threats have taken a heavy toll on pride celebrations in the United States this year, organizers say, especially in states where politicians want to restrict rights.

This month's celebrations in Houston, the largest pride event in conservative Texas, have been scaled back due to rising security and insurance costs, as well as concerns about high temperatures and capacity.

"We made the decision to cancel the festival this year," said Kendra Walker, president of Pride Houston 365, downgrading plans to a parade.

The change was first announced in January when Texas lawmakers prepared bills restricting gender-affirming health care and drag performances.

Now, pride planners in the US and Canada say they are facing higher bills due to misinformation and anti-LGBTQ hate.

"It only takes a few (people) who can't decipher reality from fantasy, and that's when the danger arises," Walker said, calling it "a formidable threat" and pointing to white supremacists who planned to riot at an event. of pride. in Idaho last year.

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Florida has become a hotspot, with Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican running for president, signing bills this spring that ban young people from drag shows and restrict how they learn about the community. LGBTQ.

Carrie West, President of Tampa Pride said:

I didn't realize there was going to be so much reshuffling.

In May, the organization canceled an outdoor festival after some patrons said they were concerned about breaking new laws.

The legislation, replicated in several other US states, also comes amid a torrent of anti-LGBTQ misinformation online.

False claims linking the community to pedophilia and Satanism have been piling up on social media platforms, fueled in part by conservative commentators and advocacy groups.

Similar allegations and misinformation about Target's pride apparel collection went viral in late May.

"We don't live in a time where we can separate what happens online from what happens in the real world," said Ari Drennen, director of the LGBTQ program at Media Matters for America, a liberal media watchdog.

Not all pride celebrations have been affected.

Long-running events retain some resilience against the hate that has been directed at the community for decades, even as equality laws have improved rights in recent years.

“There are broad threats, and they are definitely coming from the anti-wake crowd and their encouragement of their supporters to disrupt events,” said David Clarke, a spokesman for NYC Pride, the largest such group in North America.

"(But) we have very strong security plans and have had them for years. So I think it's business as usual."

However, in Republican-controlled states where laws limiting LGBTQ rights have already been passed, small-town activists are grappling with hate speech.

Dancers from Cheer DC march down the street during the Capital Pride Festival in Washington, DC.

In April, the advocacy group Equality Florida issued a warning for LGBTQ people traveling to the state.

Pride organizers in St Cloud, outside Orlando, later canceled this year's event due to "scary weather."

Kristina Bozanich, a photographer leading the celebration, told AFP drag performers "didn't feel safe" after DeSantis signed the Child Protection Act, which bans children from "live adult performances."

Shortly after the pride event in St Cloud was cancelled, a "Kill all gays" banner was put up in the nearby town of Lake Nona, Bozanich said.

"It was really shocking that what is known as a more progressive area would have a hate sign like that," he said.

After news of the cancellation broke, the bullying worsened.

bozanich said:

We get a lot of hate comments. I got hate mail.

Further south, in Port St Lucie, where an annual gay pride parade was canceled in April over legal issues, there have been pushbacks for other event promoters.

"I posted on one of the regular Port St Lucie Facebook pages about our pride party, and people started making comments about childcare," said PJ Ashley, president of the nonprofit Sanctuary of the Treasure Coast.

Pedophilia conspiracy theories have "a long history of being used against many marginalized groups to justify discrimination and violence," according to RG Cravens, a senior research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Centre, a legal advocacy group.

Polls show acceptance has grown since the dawn of the LGBTQ rights movement, but Ashley said some older members within the community "feel like time has gone back to that."

"They feel like now they're afraid to come out and say anything. So it's like you're going back to the 1960s," Ashley said.

"Everything they fought for is kind of like what we're losing."

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