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story.lead_photo.caption The Comedians of NWA rolled along in the Pride Parade on Saturday, June 27. The truck bed featured live music and Houston Hughes dressed as Jesus.

FAYETTEVILLE -- A boosted police and security force will be on hand during Saturday's annual Northwest Arkansas Pride Parade following Sunday's attack on a gay nightclub in Florida, although participants say they don't expect any danger.

Photo by Andy Shupe
Participants walk the NWA Pride Parade on June 27, 2015, while carrying a large rainbow flag on Dickson Street in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Participants walk the NWA Pride Parade on June 27, 2015, while carrying a large rainbow flag on Dickson Street in Fayetteville.

More officers than usual will guide parade participants and monitor side streets around Dickson Street during the parade and tonight's pub crawl, said Fayetteville Police Sgt. Craig Stout. He declined to say how many will be present.

NWA Pride schedule

All events are in Fayetteville.

Today

• 6 p.m.: NWA Pride Pub Crawl, Dickson Street. Tickets available at nwapride.org

• 9:30 p.m.: Queens of Dickson Show, George’s Majestic Lounge, 519 W. Dickson St. Tickets available at nwapride.org.

Saturday

• 11 a.m.: 10th Annual Northwest Arkansas Pride Parade, Dickson Street. Free and family friendly.

• Noon, or immediately following the parade: NWA Pride Festival & Rally, Old Main Lawn, University of Arkansas. Free and family-friendly.

• 8 p.m.: 7th Annual White Party, George’s Majestic Lounge. Tickets available at nwapride.org.

Sunday

12:30 p.m.: NWA Pride Interfaith Fellowship Gathering, Spirit of Peace, 902 W. Maple Street. Free and family friendly.

Source: NWA Center for Equality

Security personnel from George's Majestic Lounge and University of Arkansas police officers also will help during the weekend, said Chaz Allen, president of the NWA Center for Equality, the event's organizer.

Organizers last year said a record 2,000 people turned out for the parade one day after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled same-sex couples had the right to marry anywhere in the country. Stout said he expected another large crowd after a gunman killed 49 people and injured dozens of others early Sunday in the Orlando, Fla., club Pulse.

"We figure a lot of people will be showing up just as a show of support," Stout said. "Obviously what happened in Orlando has heightened some awareness."

Pride parades and other events have been held for decades to bring together gay, bisexual and transgender people and their supporters and affirm their existence and identity. Fayetteville's celebration began in 2006, replacing smaller, more sporadic events held as early as the 1970s, according to the equality center.

Fayetteville joins communities across the country that have beefed up their police presence at pride events, according to The Associated Press.

The same day as the Orlando shooting, a man was arrested in Los Angeles with several assault-style rifles and explosive chemicals. He told police he was going to that city's pride parade, but it's not clear if he intended to use them there, and the case appears to be unrelated to Orlando.

Justine Turnage, a member of Fayetteville's Transgender Equality Network, a support and advocacy group, said she still planned to go to the parade Saturday.

"It is definitely something we have to watch out for, something we have to be aware of, because copycats come in all shapes and sizes," she said. "But at the same time, Fayetteville is much lower key. It definitely feels safer here."

Hostility and occasional violence toward the gay, bisexual and transgender community are nothing new. The FBI reported more than 1,100 crimes motivated by bias against different sexual orientations or gender identities nationally in 2014, the latest statistics available. Stout and Allen said no such incidents have been reported in response to Fayetteville pride events.

Mike Emery, an Air Force veteran who plans to attend the parade with his husband, said he was "fully confident" local police will keep the event safe.

"I did 10 years in the service -- I kind of look at everything in a what-if sort of way, anyway," Emery said. "Plan for the worst, hope for the best, that kind of thing."

Allen said the Orlando attack highlights the importance of pride and being visible. He thanked Protect Fayetteville, a political group opposed the city's non-discrimination ordinance protecting sexual orientation and gender identity, for its statement of support on social media following the attack.

"We're going to have a really fun and great pride," Allen added. "This pride will have special importance."

NW News on 06/17/2016

Print Headline: Pride security gets boost

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