Shooting concerns at San Francisco, New York Pride events sow chaos

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Fears of active shooters at Pride events in New York City and San Francisco sowed chaos on Sunday, overshadowing the celebrations amid heightened concerns over previous shootings at LGBTQ spaces and the frequency of mass shootings in the United States.

New York City Police said on Twitter there were “NO shots fired” at Washington Square Park, the center of Pride celebrations in the city, after loud noises sent crowds fleeing and nearly caused a stampede. “After an investigation, it was determined that the sound was fireworks set off at the location,” police said.

At New York’s Pride Weekend, a noticeable cloud from the Supreme Court

With many Pride events — which are often held in June — returning this year for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, extremism researchers have highlighted increased risk.

President Biden last month warned of “rising hate and violence” targeting LGBTQ communities. On Saturday, two people were killed in a shooting at a gay bar in Oslo, and this month Police in Idaho foiled a plot by affiliates of a white-supremacist group to disrupt a Pride celebration in a park.

Concerns of gun violence have lingered in recent years since a shooting at a gay bar in Orlando in 2016 left 49 people dead. A spat of mass shootings this year, including those in Buffalo and Uvalde, Tex., has raised tensions across the country.

On June 26, fears of active shooters at Pride events in New York City and San Francisco caused chaos as people went running in all directions. (Video: The Washington Post)

In San Francisco on Saturday, officers patrolling the city’s Civic Center area, where the San Francisco Pride Festival was held, responded to reports of a shooting about 5:30 pm local time. They were “unable to locate any victims or witnesses,” Officer Kathryn Winters, a spokeswoman and LGBTQ liaison for the department, said in an email to The Washington Post.

“At this time it does not appear that there was any merit to a shooting in the area, and officers remain on scene to ensure safety and security of Pride events,” she said.

Kylie Robison, a San Francisco resident and reporter for the news site Insider, tweeted that she was at the event and saw people “screaming, running, saying there was shots fired.”

She said she started to run with the crowd, adding, “Its just wild to live in a country where we’re all prepared to run or die like that.”

There were multiple unconfirmed reports on social media of tear gas or bear spray being used by police as crowds ran over fear of a possible active shooter.

In a message responding to questions about the purported use of tear gas, Winters said: “There was no shooting, I’m confused as to why you would ask about tear gas. Regardless, the San Francisco Police Department does not use tear gas to disperse crowds.”

She added: “The SFPD does not use tear gas and is not equipped with ‘bear gas.’ Without anything more than vague social media reports we cannot comment further.”

Law enforcement agencies have come under criticism for using tear gas, pepper spray and similar products as crowd-control tools, including at protests in Portland, Ore., and near the White House in 2020. Turkish police used tear gas against participants in a Pride parade in Istanbul last summer.

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