Fears of active shooters at Pride events in New York City and San Francisco caused chaos Sunday, overshadowing the celebrations amid heightened concerns about previous shootings at LGBTQ spaces and the frequency of mass shootings in the United States.
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 warned last month of “rising hate and violence” targeting LGBTQ communities. On Saturday, two people were killed in a shooting at a gay bar in Oslo, and police in Idaho foiled a plot this month by affiliates of a white supremacist group to disrupt a Pride celebration in a park.
Concerns about gun violence against LGBTQ people have lingered since a shooting at an Orlando gay bar in 2016 left 49 people dead. A spate of mass shootings this year, including those in Buffalo and Uvalde, Tex., has raised tensions across the country.
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 p.m. 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 wrote that 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.”
In a message responding to questions about unconfirmed reports on social media of tear gas or bear spray being used by police as crowds ran, 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.