News (USA)

State Department warns of terrorist attacks during Pride Month following ISIS threats

The Space Coast Pride Parade kicked off Pridefest 2023 in downtown Melbourne
The Space Coast Pride Parade kicked off Pridefest 2023 in downtown Melbourne Photo: MALCOLM DENEMARK/FLORIDA TODAY / USA TODAY NETWORK

The State Department issued a worldwide security alert last Friday, citing threats made by ISIS against Pride events in Europe. This follows a similar warning last week issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the FBI.

“Due to the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations, or violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests, the Department of State advises U.S. citizens overseas to exercise increased caution,” the State Department warning says. “The Department of State is aware of the increased potential for foreign terrorist organization-inspired violence against LGBTQI+ persons and events.”

The warning tells U.S. citizens to “Stay alert” during Pride events and in LGBTQ+ spaces, follow the State Department on social media, and enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program to get alerts.

CBS News reports that three sources said that the warning comes after ISIS made threats against Pride events in Europe. Two of the sources said that ISIS has also threatened Pride events in the U.S. this year.

“Since January 2024, ISIS has successfully conducted external operations in Iran, Russia, and Turkey; called for attacks against the West; and has promised to exact revenge on its enemies, which could include the LGBTQIA+ community,” a May 10, 2024, unclassified intelligence bulletin reads.

Last week, the FBI and DHS issued a similar warning regarding the domestic threat of terrorism at Pride events.

The public service announcement issued two weeks ago says that foreign terrorist organization (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.”

“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.”

The Joint Counterterrorism Assessment Team issued guidance this month about how to “counter violent extremist threats” against LGBTQ+ people. It contained guidance on how to work with LGBTQ+ people and against anti-LGBTQ+ people, including using people’s correct pronouns and recognizing the kind of language that anti-LGBTQ+ people use.

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.”

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