In anticipation of a half-million attendees descending on Downtown and the Short North for this weekend’s annual Stonewall Columbus Pride parade and festival, Columbus police announced they’ll assign more officers this year to protect participants.
The increase in security is not related to any specific threats, but reflects how large the Columbus event has grown, said AJ Casey, director of Stonewall Columbus, which is organizing the event. A police spokeswoman said the division won’t release exact numbers of officers, but that “hundreds” would be involved.
Casey said this year’s parade, which starts Saturday at 10:30 a.m., is expected to be the largest in Pride’s history and is expected to have around 13,000 people marching, 5,000 more than 2018. New this year, the festival will feature a separate Trans March, which will gather at the Ohio Statehouse on Friday at 7:30 p.m. before departing at 8 p.m., to march in support and solidarity with transgender people.
“We’re working deliberately to make sure people feel safe at this event,” Casey said.
While there have not been any direct threats, protests are expected, said Casey. In 2017, police arrested four people protesting a lack of inclusion at Stonewall Columbus Pride for people of color and transgender people. Since then, a group called the Black, Queer and Intersectional Collective has held a simultaneous competing event at Mayme Park in the King-Lincoln neighborhood on the same day as the Stonewall event.
At Stonewall Pride, security and enforcement will be handled by Homeland Security agents, and uniformed and plain-clothed officers from the Columbus Division of Police, said Lt. Nick Konves, a diversity and inclusion officer with Columbus police.
“There’s a good chance you can bump into an officer and not know you bumped into an officer,” he said.
Volunteers will also be on hand to radio authorities for help if needed.
Returning this year is a text alert system that provides updates and safety notifications. People can receive the alerts by texting “Pride” to 888777. The system cannot receive messages or be used to report crimes. For crime reporting, attendees should call 911 or the non-emergency police line (614) 645-4545.
For personal safety reasons, Knoves said attendees are encouraged to walk in pairs, watch their drinks, and check license plate numbers before entering ride-share service vehicles.