News (USA)

FBI & DHS warn of possible terrorist attacks during Pride Month

Members of the OhioHealth group carry balloons during the 2017 Stonewall Columbus Pride Parade in Columbus, Ohio on June 17, 2017.
Members of the OhioHealth group carry balloons during the 2017 Stonewall Columbus Pride Parade in Columbus, Ohio on June 17, 2017. Photo: Brooke LaValley / USA TODAY NETWORK

The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have issued a warning just before Pride Month begins about possible threats from foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs).

The public service announcement issued this past Friday says that FTO threats are “compounded by the current heightened threat environment in the United States and other western countries,” and notes that many FTOs have previously used “anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric and targeted LGBTQIA+ related events or venues for attacks.”

The announcement discusses messaging among ISIS in February 2023 that had “anti-LGBTQIA+ rhetoric” and “called for followers to conduct attacks on unidentified soft targets.” It also says that three ISIS sympathizers were arrested in an attempted attack on Pride in Vienna, Austria in June 2023. The announcement says that June 12, 2024, will be the eighth anniversary of the Pulse shooting in Orlando, where an attacker killed 49 people in the LGBTQ+ venue.

“Organizations like ISIS may seek to exploit increased gatherings associated with the upcoming June 2024 Pride Month,” the announcement states. It also lists suspicious activity to be aware of, like violent threats made online or in person, photography of security equipment, and “unusual surveillance or interest in buildings, gatherings, or events.”

“LGBQTIA+ members have drawn the ire of al-Qaeda and ISIS supporters in the past based on their perceived lifestyles and beliefs,” Javed Ali, former senior counterterrorism director for the National Security Council, told ABC News. “However, the degree to which this announcement was driven by specific and credible intelligence about attacks here against this community, versus a more general abundance of caution based on Pride Month, remains unclear.”

While there have been several threats from FTOs against Pride in the past few years, there have been far more threats from domestic terrorists. A report in 2022 found that anti-LGBTQ+ mobilization had more than quadrupled from 2020 to 2021 and then worsened again in 2022.

A separate report in 2023 found three times as many incidents of anti-LGBTQ+ hate and extremism during Pride events that year over 2022. Nearly half of the reported incidents were perpetrated by individuals associated with extremist groups like the Proud Boys and Patriot Front.

Thirty-one members of a white supremacist group were arrested in June 2022 in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho with police saying that they “came to riot” during the town’s Pride festivities. In 2023, white supremacists protested a Pride event in Bozeman, Montana, and the confrontation turned violent. Several other Pride celebrations faced protests from extremists targeting them for supporting trans children and drag performances.

In May 2023, DHS issued a warning that anti-LGBTQ+ violence would increase that year during Pride Month. That warning focused on domestic extremists and cited social media chatter celebrating mass shootings.

“These issues include actions linked to drag-themed events, gender-affirming care, and LGBTQIA+ curricula in schools,” last year’s warning said. “High-profile attacks against schools and faith-based institutions like the recent shooting in Nashville have historically served as inspiration for individuals to conduct copycat attacks.”

“A fringe few extremists, domestically and overseas, are irrationally threatened by the rising tide of acceptance for LGBTQ people,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. “It is important to keep Prides safe for all attendees, and for people to keep showing up during Pride and throughout the year to speak up for the equality and safety of their communities and all marginalized people.”

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