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'We take security very differently': Baltimore Pride organizers prepare for weekend visitors

Baltimore Pride returns this weekend with heightened security and safety measures, although not because of the incident at D.C.’s pride parade Saturday, which caused a widespread panic that left several people injured after a man pulled out a BB gun.

While Mimi Demissew, the executive director of the Pride Center of Maryland, said she was aware of the D.C. incident, she said security has consistently been a major area of focus and preparation for the Baltimore event.

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“Ever since Pulse happened, we take security very differently,” Demissew said, referring to the nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla., in 2016.

Baltimore’s Pride will see a combination of police officers as well as private security, medics and fire marshals this weekend, according to Demissew.

There were well over 30,000 participants in past years, and Demissew hopes to hit 40,000 this year.

Baltimore Police Department Detective Jeremy Silbert said police officers will be deployed for a range of services from patrolling to traffic control.

“Their presence isn’t there to police but to serve the participants of Pride,” Demissew said.

While there isn’t a specific threat that Demissew is worried about, she recognizes that “not everyone comes to Pride to celebrate” and staff has been working diligently to ensure the safety of everyone at the festival. She described the Pride Center’s mindset about security is “hope for the best and plan for the worst.”

This year’s Baltimore Pride theme — “Unity through diversity: the remix” — is a tribute to Baltimore’s 1998 Pride Festival, which celebrated the differences within the LGBTQ community.

“We’re bringing it back,” Demissew explained “because we do have differences but at the end of the day we’re a family and we have to stick together.”

Demissew also wants to remind people coming to the festival that participants are not allowed to carry large bags unless they are clear or mesh, nor enter the block party area with clear liquids. Free water will be available throughout the event, and home base will be giving out free bags.

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