Originally published: June 9, 2009, 8:54 a.m.
Updated: June 12, 2009, 11:33 a.m.
SPARTANBURG, S.C. — The Upstate of South Carolina is set to have its first ever regional LGBT Pride festival and parade next weekend, June 20. But anti-gay protesters seem bent on making a usually happy and celebratory event into one of strife and discord.
According to a Facebook.com message sent out to supporters by Upstate Pride organizer Joey Geier, the group has been forced to hire extra security as a result of several planned protests the same day.
“Upstate Pride’s inaugural march and festival is in 10 days and will take place rain or shine (but let’s hope for shine),” Geier wrote on June 8. “This will be a joyous, festive, family-friendly occasion, and we are hoping for a fantastic turnout. I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised, though, that some folks in the area are not supportive of this ground-breaking event.”
According to the message, the group was notified that protest permits were issued for four areas along the group’s parade route. The protests will be likely positioned at 351 E. Henry St., Hudson L. Barksdale and E. Henry St., S. Converse and E. Henry Sts., and 210 E. Henry Pl.
Geier said that protesters will be required to stay on the sidewalk as parade participants march in the street. He also said organizers will be planning for extra security.
“Upstate Pride has hired police officers to cover the march (a routine requirement of the permit issued by the City), and Public Safety will be dispatching additional patrols to the area,” he wrote. “In addition, we have hired police officers to patrol the church grounds during the festival. It is our intent to have a fun, safe event, but we want you to be aware that protesters will be exercising their right to, well, protest.”
Organizers have asked Upstate Pride participants to ignore the protesters. They’ll position Pride staff at protest points to make sure everything runs smoothly.
Upstate Pride isn’t the first such event held in the area. In 1997, the statewide South Carolina Pride was held in Greenville. This year’s activities will mark the area’s first ever regional Pride.