When L.A. Pride announced the postponement of its annual parade and festival last week, many on social media reacted with shock and disbelief. The 50th anniversary of the event wasn’t scheduled until June. Did the organizers believe we’d still be quarantined then? Was there any hope left in the world?
In fact, the decision wasn’t made by L.A. Pride but the city that hosts it. All “non-essential events and meetings” in West Hollywood—not just the rainbow-bedecked parade but also all city council meetings, film shoots, and private gatherings that cannot accommodate “space for social distancing of at least six feet per person”—have been halted by the city until June 30.
Mayor John D’Amico says the measures are meant to protect the roughly 30 percent of residents who are seniors and 20 percent who are living with medical conditions, including HIV. (Older HIV+ individuals are more likely to be immunocompromised and are thus at greater risk of developing serious complications from the coronavirus, even if they’re adhering to antiretrovirals.)
“Our city has a population that is very much concerned about not being exposed to this virus unnecessarily,” he said, adding that West Hollywood had never attempted this kind of mass shutdown in its 36-year history.
Estevan Mortemayor, board president of Christopher Street West, the association behind L.A. Pride, said that while three months might seem like far away, there was no way to ensure the wellbeing of all participants would be protected before then.
“There comes a point where you have to make a decision about whether or not to proceed,” he says. “This might seem cautious or a bit early in some people’s minds but it’s all being done to ensure people’s safety.”
The annual L.A. Pride festival and parade is an economic powerhouse for the city and county. Last year, it generated an estimated $74.7 million in economic output, according to an independent research and consulting firm. The event also supported the annual equivalent of 830 jobs in L.A. County and boosted labor income by $33.1 million. Roughly 250,000 people joined the festivities.
Despite fears of contagion, some local Pride festivals haven’t gotten the axe just yet. Organizers for San Diego’s Pride—scheduled to take place July 17 to the 19—say they’re still moving forward “with informed and cautious optimism.” But Long Beach Pride, which takes place even sooner, on May 17, was canceled over the weekend.
In Florida, both Palm Beach and Miami Pride are being nixed, as well as Fort Lauderdale’s inaugural “LGBTQ+ Pride of the Americas” event, which has been postponed until fall.
Across the Atlantic, organizers of Pride events in Europe met last Monday to discuss contingency plans for the outbreak. Kristine Garina, president of the European Pride Organizers Association called it “inevitable” that events will face “cancelation, curtailment, or postponement.”
“It is ironic that over the last few decades various politicians, presidents, prime ministers, mayors, archbishops, and other bigots have done their best to thwart and cancel Pride parades, but it was mother nature who succeeded,” she said.
Even amidst all the uncertainty, Montemayor was adamant that the parade and festival would still take place at a later date this year.
“We will find a time to celebrate, we will find a time to march,” he said. “We are a very resilient community. We’ve faced adversity over and over and we’re going to overcome it again because that’s what we always do.”
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