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St. Pete Pride organizers say they won’t be deterred

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Pete Pride Festival officials say as of now, no major changes are planned for Pride weekend events scheduled to take place June 24-26, in the wake of the gun shooting massacre that occurred early Sunday morning at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando.

“No single act of hate can detour us from coming together as a community,” says Eric Skains, Executive Director of St Pete Pride, in a statement issued Sunday. “Pride and unity is more important now than ever before. From the Stonewall Inn in New York and the UpStairs Lounge in New Orleans to the now Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, acts of violence at LGBTQ+ welcoming establishments has been part of our dark history. Each time our community has come together and silenced the voices of hate.”

The statement also says that each year, St. Pete Pride officials work with officials from the City of St. Petersburg on maintaining an environment that is welcoming and safe for all who attend.

In 2014, organizers moved the daytime parade to early Saturday evening.

That alarms Hugh Harvey, who asked on the organization’s Facebook page, “Doesn’t this give pause to the Pride organizers about the wisdom and safety of a night time parade? If it was held during the day, it would be easier for law enforcement and attendees to spot something ‘wrong,’ rather than it being hidden by the cover of darkness.”

David Schauer, a former chair of St. Pete Pride, wrote on his Facebook page that organizers shouldn’t cancel the parade, but hold a candlelight vigil of sorts.

“I meant we need to have a discussion about how the parade could honor the dead responsibly and not seem like a farce,” he wrote.

He later wrote in a separate post to this reporter that this year’s parade “needs to be politicized.”

“And this year our pride parades need to be a political march for justice,” Schauer added.

Others have written that there be a “respectful tribute” of some sort to begin the parade, perhaps with 49 people holding the name of the 49 victims.

“But we have to celebrate pride; if we don’t celebrate, the killer wins,” wrote Jack Maynard.

Congresswoman Kathy Castor will be the honorary grand marshal each year for the St. Pete Pride Parade later this month, a position that she said Monday she was honored to be a part.

“This is going to be an opportunity for our entire community and everyone who loves the St Pete Pride celebration to come together to honor the victims, honor the Orlando community, and stand up for equality and human rights and love and peace,” she said.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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