Pride Festival goes on with security and tons of fun

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) –  Despite the massacre in Orlando, Augusta Pride plans to kick off its festival weekend with some of the annual favorites like Beats on Broad. But just a day after the shooting that killed 49 people and injured 53 others, the focus is on ensuring that folks will be safe and have fun at the Pride Festival.

Augusta Pride Vice President Lonzo Smith said he encourages people to come, especially after Orlando.

“It is a perfect opportunity to come out and show that we still live, that we still love, that we still celebrate,” he said.

Augusta Pride, Inc. President Takya Browning issued the following statement:

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the city of Orlando and the owners and patrons of Pulse. Our deepest condolences to those families who lost loved ones in this senseless act. Our thoughts are with those piecing their lives back together after this tragedy. Please let’s all come together in showing our love and support for those in our community near and far.

Smith said the incident happened when people least expected it.

“When you think about people that are celebrating and enjoying their lives and enjoying their loved ones at the height of exuberance and then to be tragically and mercilessly cut down, it pains us all,” he said.

Smith said security is always at the festival, which is going into its seventh year.  He said this year will be no different.

“We are still moving forward with our festival the way that we planned,” he said.  “Everything is still very fluid that has happened with this situation so, We haven’t had an opportunity to see if there is a way we can successfully commemorate this and honor the victims, but still celebrate the lives of the heroes that were there.”

The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office also addressed the security concerns regarding the Pride Festival.  They issued the following statement:In light of the recent tragedy, the Public Information Office has received numerous inquiries over concerns for safety in our community and specifically for the LGBT Community and their upcoming events. I assure you that the safety of our entire community is the foremost concern of the Sheriff’s Office and all of the men and women who serve our community.After a tragedy such as the one in Orlando, all Law Enforcement Agencies are naturally on heightened alert with a diligence for security. We are steadfast in our resolve to insure that the upcoming parade and events are trouble free and safe for everyone.We extend our heartfelt condolences to the City of Orlando and all of her citizens.

We spoke with Tony White, a local community activist, about the massacre. He said people need to be more educated about the LGBT community.

“People want to stop progress. They see the progress that they LGBT community is making. Just last year when, you know the celebration of marriage equality was celebrated, our president stands with the community as far as moving forward and you know people just need more education,” he said.

Augusta Pride issued the following press release ahead of its weekend of events.

This year marks the 7th Anniversary of Augusta PRIDE festival; an annual celebration of diversity and pride in the CSRA hosted by Augusta Pride, Inc. Join us for three days of celebrations, beginning on June 23RD with the exclusive President’s Soiree. On Friday, June 24th, we welcome the return of Beats on Broad; Augusta’s first and largest outdoor dance party. Saturday’s main event features Augusta PRIDE’s 7th Annual Parade beginning at 11 a.m. on Broad Street, followed by the PRIDE Festival at 12 noon. This year’s entertainment lineup includes performances by CeCe Peniston, David Hernandez, Lazaro Arbos from American Idol, Dylan Michael and the Family, Stink Bamboo, and False Flag.

Join Augusta’s gay and straight business supporters, nonprofit organizations, civic groups, LGBTQ service organizations, military representation, exhibitors, churches, thousands of attendees, and as well as our crowned PRIDE royalty in celebrating six years of Augusta PRIDE! There will be food, drink, alcohol, merchandise, and informational vendors available. Everyone is welcome!

All official Augusta PRIDE events can be found here.

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