AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Coverage you can count on continues with the security of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning and Ally community.
On Thursday evening, the President’s Soiree marked the start of Augusta’s 7th Annual Pride Festival. With the Orlando Shooting still fresh on people’s mind, WJBF NewsChannel 6 is looking into what security will be like throughout the weekend.
The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office is no stranger to large-scale events that attract big crowds to the Garden City. Richmond County Field Operations Major Steven Strickland says he’s been working with Augusta Pride Festival Organizers on the security plan way before the Orlando Shooting. Still, this year the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office is implementing a few new security measures.
The shock of the Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting was felt around the world. In Augusta, Pride Festival organizers are gearing up for a big weekend of unity and celebrating diversity. Yet, the mass shooting that targeted the L.G.B.T.Q.A. community is a hard pill to swallow.
“I would be lying if I didn’t say that it comes across your mind, but I feel perfectly safe.” Jared Stepp, False Flag Guitarist and 7th Annual Augusta Pride Festival performer, said.
The Field Operations Major say security and defense plans, with contingencies, have been put in place to ensure all of his officers are ready for anything. “We have deputies that are going to be working normally as they would. We will also bring in deputies that, the festival will be their sole assignment,” he said.
Strickland says in the 6 years that Richmond County deputies have worked the Augusta Pride Festival they’ve improved security measures. Implementing new tactics each year and this time is no different. “We addressed a few issues and we had added a few folks to cover some areas that we didn’t cover last year.” Strickland told WJBF News Channel 6.
However, the addition of more deputies for protection won’t impact the unifying atmosphere at the Augusta Commons.
“That’s what it is. It’s a place for everyone to feel safe, enjoy themselves and be who they are.” Stepp said.
Augusta Pride, Inc. Vice President Lonzo Smith says members of the L.G.B.T.Q.A. community trust Richmond County deputies will keep them safe. Smith says leaving security to the experts means he can focus on making sure the message of accepting diversity is felt this weekend.
“There’s a tangible feeling of love, that you feel when you’re standing in the middle of that festivals and you can’t help but become emotional. You can’t help but understand the power of what is happening. We’re changing lives one person at a time,” Smith told WJBF NewsChannel 6.
If you are heading to the festivities this weekend Richmond County deputies want to remind everyone to hide any valuables and make sure to lock your car.