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Safe Celebrations: Pride 2024

Base Operations Analyst, Chris Chevallier PhD, assesses the threat landscape for this year’s Pride Month and advises on how to celebrate safely.

Safe Celebrations: Pride 2024

Base Operations Analyst, Chris Chevallier PhD, assesses the threat landscape for this year’s Pride Month and advises on how to celebrate safely. Prior to Base Operations, Chris worked  for the NYPD and ATF, as well as was a research affiliate with the National LGBT Federation and Transgender Equality Network Ireland.

June is Pride Month and a time for celebration. However, during May 2024, multiple federal agencies advised of potential threats posed to Pride Month celebrations and the LGBTQIA+ community by foreign terrorist organizations. Base Operations analysis finds that participants should also be wary of domestic threat actors, as well as the general increase in crime and violence that occurs during the late spring and summer.  

Table of Contents:

  1. Foreign Terrorist Organizations
  2. Domestic Actors and Unrest
  3. Seasonal Trends 
  4. Celebrating Safely 

Foreign Terrorist Organizations: 

On May 10th, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a Public Service Announcement to raise awareness of potential targeting of LGBTQIA+ community events and organizations by foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) and their supporters.1 The agencies cautioned that Pride Month crowd sizes could be leveraged by groups seeking to cause harm. On May 17th, the US Department of State released a security alert advising US citizens to exercise caution when attending LGBTQIA+ events abroad due to potential targeting by FTOs. 2

These releases echo a May 2023 DHS bulletin that listed “individuals or events associated with the LGBTQIA+ community” among potential targets for violence among FTOs and domestic violent extremists.3

The only FTO to be explicitly named in the May 10th PSA was ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), which has a history of anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric and violence.  

  • In June 2023, Austria’s State Protection and Intelligence Directorate arrested three individuals allegedly planning a terror attack on Vienna’s Pride parade. 4 The individuals appear to have become ISIS sympathizers via online radicalization. 
  • On June 25th, 2022, two people were killed and 21 injured at two bars associated with Oslo Pride. Before committing the terrorist attack, the alleged perpetrator is said to have recorded an oath of allegiance to ISIS.5
  • On June 12th, 2016, a gunman attacked the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. 6 The mass shooting resulted in the deaths of 49 people, as well as 53 more being injured. It was the deadliest attack on US soil since 9/11.

Domestic Actors and Unrest: 

Base Operations assessed approximately 478 unrest events in the US involving LGBTQIA+ groups or issues (both pro and anti) between 7/1/23 and 5/17/24. 85% of these events were peaceful protests, with the remainder involving violence or police intervention. 41.8% were related to transgender or gender non-conforming issues, while 8% involved drag performances. 10% of events were at the nexus of multiple issues including pro-Palestinian support. Recurring anti-LGBTQIA+ actors include Outside of the Patriot Front and Proud Boys, the Goyim Defense League and Mom’s For Liberty.

Between 2022 and early 2023, the Anti Violence Project (AVP) conducted a survey of 380 LGBTQIA+ organizations across the United States entitled Under Attack: 2022 LGBTQ+ Safe Spaces National Needs Assessment. The survey found that:

  • 59% of the respondent organizations faced at least one act of violence, harassment, or threat in-person or over the phone. 7
  • White nationalist groups were associated with 48% of protest activities, with the Patriot Front and Proud Boys being the most frequently reported actors. 
  • Drag Story Hour events were often the focal points of protests and demonstrations.

The AVP’s report mirrors similar findings by the ACLED (Armed Conflict Location & Events Data) project. One report published by ACLED, in November 2022, found that: 

“Far-right militias and militant social movements like the Proud Boys and Patriot Front have increased their engagement in anti-LGBT+ demonstrations by over three times this year, from 16 events in 2021 to 52 events as of mid-November 2022. This is a dangerous trend: demonstrations are over four times more likely to turn violent and/or destructive when far-right militias or militant social movements are involved.”8

In a separate report, ACLED found that during June 2023 “​demonstrations in opposition to LGBTQ+ rights rose to the highest single-month levels ever recorded in the United States.”9 Despite this concerning trend, ACLED also highlighted that pro-LGBTQIA+ demonstrations outnumbered anti-LGBTQIA+ ones by more than 2:1 and that half of the demonstrations against the LGBTQIA+ community were met with counter protestors.

Unrest events involving LGBTQIA+ Groups and Issues by State: 7/1/23-5/17/24

Per capita unrest events involving LGBTQIA+ Groups and Issues by State: 7/1/23-5/17/24

Seasonal Trends:

Pride falls during the time of year when many major cities see generally elevated crime rates. Base Operations data found that some of the US cities with the largest Pride celebrations tend to see noticeable increases in property and violent crime from May to June.   

This elevation may be attributable to increased foot traffic, tourism, social interactions, and nightlife events, as well as the summer vacation for students. Readers should exercise increased caution, plan safe travel routes, and take measures against theft and pickpocketing to avoid these more common threats. When possible, it is always advisable to travel in pairs or groups during dangerous times of the day. 

Hell’s Kitchen in NYC is home to many LGBTQIA+ establishments. During Pride Month 2023, the area saw a 10% increase in crime, with 55% of incidents occurring in the evening or night. Of the 322 incidents that took place, 67% were thefts and 28% were violent crimes. 

Base Operations data finds summer season increases across cities including Washington DC, San Francisco, Chicago, etc.

Celebrating Safely:

Although the current threat landscape can be disheartening, the LGBTQIA+ community and its allies have long persevered against both threats of and actualized violence. The celebration of Pride Month in the face of extremist threats is a testament to the community’s strength and bravery. Below are some practical steps and considerations that organizations involved with security planning for Pride events can take to help ensure the well-being of participants.     

LGBTQIA+ organizations and Pride participants are advised to:

  • Proactively open lines of communication with local law enforcement LGBTQIA+ liaisons, as well as other nearby LGBTQIA+ organizations.
  • Encourage event attendees to travel in groups and pre plan travel routes.
  • Take advantage of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s free resources for bolstering physical safety and cybersecurity measures. Many of these can be found here.  

Security and Public Safety Professionals should be aware that:

  • There may be smaller Pride “afterparty” events that continue into July that require additional vigilance.
  • Some cities schedule their Pride celebrations later in the summer (e.g., Stockholm Pride is between July 29th and August 3rd 2024) or even in the Autumn (e.g., Atlanta celebrates Pride during October). 
  • Large cities may have distinct parades and festivals throughout Pride Month. NYC, for example, has borough based celebrations leading up to its main Pride Parade.
  • Violent extremists can resort to using low-tech (e.g., knives) and more widely available (e.g., vehicles) means of causing violence to avoid detection or if firearms and explosives cannot be acquired.

Security and Public Safety Professionals are advised to: 

  • Establish ties with and engage the LGBTQIA+ community to build effective working relationships and a strong rapport. The Joint Counterterrorism Assessment Team of the NCTC provides guidance on achieving this here
  • Read the May 10th PSA, found here, in its entirety for indicators of suspicious activity. These include, but are not limited to, unknown individuals taking photos of security deployments or asking questions about crowd sizes/busiest times for an event. 
  • Map out LGBTQIA+ organizations and nightlife establishments within their Area of Responsibility (AOR) to assist with planning effective security deployments. 

From the team at Base Operations, please celebrate safely and happy Pride!




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