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Florida city could cancel Pride in 2023 people protest against drag queens

One of the signs opposing Naples Pride Fest
One of the signs opposing Naples Pride Fest Photo: Screenshot

Anti-LGBTQ+ activists want to prevent a Pride celebration from taking place in one Florida community.

Earlier this week, the mayor and city council of Naples, Florida, met to discuss the details of the city’s annual Naples Pride Fest. Ahead of the Wednesday morning meeting, LGBTQ+ activist Kevin Sowryda told local NBC News affiliate NBC2 that an extreme anti-gay group is pushing the community to ban the event, which has taken place in Cambier Park in downtown Naples since 2017.

At Wednesday’s meeting, more than 50 people, both opposed to and in support of Naples Pride Fest, spoke. According to Naples Daily News, opponents took issue with the fact that the event, which is scheduled to take place in June, would happen near a playground in Cambier Park where they feared children would be able to see drag performers. Several speakers suggested the event be moved to a different location.

“I believe in free speech, but I believe there’s better venues than our children’s parks,” said Naples resident Ashleigh Barrett.

“Having a playground right next to men doing splits in their underwear is highly inappropriate,” Teddy Collins, a father of four, told ABC7. “It’s sending a confusing message… and promoting this pride in something that could cause mental health, suicide in kids. This is not a kid-friendly appropriate thing. I’m not proud of this pride group showing up and pushing this agenda on my community.”

“If you want to call me homophobic or a bigot, I’m fine with that,” he also told the news station. He and others are responsible for signs in the city that say, “Drag queens CONFUSE kids and EXPOSE them to ADULT ISSUES/Keep them OUT of our PARKS!”

“Our event is the most family-friendly event, I would say, anywhere in the world,” said Cori Craciun, the executive director of the Naples Pride Center which hosts Naples Pride Fest. “It’s really just a day of celebrating the community…celebrating ourselves and celebrating those who fought for our right just to exist.”

Naples Pride board member Callhan Soldavini insisted that performers at past events were always dressed appropriately. “There is no sexualization. No more than a cheerleader or Dolly Parton,” she said. “There’s no drag queens in G-strings… They are all appropriately dressed. We make sure that everything is something that we would all be comfortable exposing our children to.”

Soldavini also resisted the idea of moving the event indoors.

“We certainly don’t want to separate the event and put everybody in four walls, in a closed-off space,” Soldavini said. “We want it to be open and celebrated in public and we want parents and families to be able to bring their children because we want it to be a space that children can feel exposed to the existence of gay people and the LGBTQ community and it be a safe environment to do that in.”

Craciun expressed frustration with the opposition to the event, which raises money for the center’s programs, including LGBTQ+ counseling and education.

“It’s very frustrating. Especially that we are not just serving the LGBTQ community. We are serving the community at large,” Craciun said. “It shows the community that we are welcoming and accepting, and respectful of all people. We shouldn’t have to be here over and over and over again.”

The Naples City Council will vote on whether to block the Pride Fest’s permit at a meeting on March 1.

“We are confident that they won’t deny it because we’ve been presenting the same application with the drag performances since 2017,” said Soldavini. “This has only become an issue this year because it’s become such a politicized issue.”

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