As Pride Fort Lauderdale re-launched its brand over the weekend, the fledgling organization saw familiar issues surface.
Complaints ran the gamut from the usual pricing for admission and vendors, to the uncontrollable, like weather and, finally, shocking reports of censorship.
Jessica McComb attended the Pride Fort Lauderdale festival at Holiday Park on Sunday and was none too pleased with her experience. McComb arrived at the festival wearing only pasties from the waist up. Pasties are patches that cover a person’s nipples. In this case, McComb’s pasties featured an endorsement of independent U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, who is running for President.
This display apparently crossed the line.
McComb says she was told to put a top on or leave the festival.
“It’s embarrassing to be scolded like a child,” McComb said. “They are telling me how to dress. I’m not breaking the law. They let me in this way.”
Indeed, Fort Lauderdale police officers had no problem allowing McComb to pass into the festival. SFGN spoke with two uniformed officers outside of the entrance to War Memorial Auditorium who said she was not breaking the law.
Meanwhile, Pride Fort Lauderdale board members are tight-lipped about the incident. Board President Norm Kent admitted to telling McComb to cover up just prior to the singing of the national anthem, kicking off day two of the festival.
“I asked her to consider wearing a T-shirt as a courtesy to the festival,” Kent said.
Prior to making the request himself, Kent approached Fort Lauderdale United Church of Christ Rev. Joel Slotnick.
“I had a collar on and he asked if I would speak with her,” Slotnick said. “There were children present so I asked her to consider the family environment she was in.”
McComb said she found Slotnick’s appeal insulting.
“This festival is sponsored by condoms and lube,” she said. “Give me a break.”
After Slotnick’s attempt, Kent stepped in and informed McComb of her rights.
“I told her she had a constitutional right to dress that way and she met the city’s ordinances,” Kent said. “However, because she was near a petting zoo where children were playing, I simply asked if she would consider putting a top on.”
McComb complied with Kent’s request, replacing her pasties with a tanktop provided by the Bernie Sanders campaign.
“They are telling me how to dress,” McComb said. “It’s a double standard. You have guys running around here in thongs and assless chaps and I have to put on a top? This is ridiculous.”
One of those guys in assless chaps told SFGN no one asked him to cover up. Elsewhere the festival featured scores of men from local strip clubs parading around in underwear that emphasized their genitals.
Jack Lieberman, a volunteer with the Sanders campaign, said the incident “reeked of misogyny.”
McComb, 30, said she is a Fort Lauderdale resident who works in sales. She identifies as pansexual.
Elsewhere, Kent defended the raised ticket price of $15.
“When you have a two-day festival you incur costs that must be covered by fees,” Kent said. “We had to pay for fencing, policing and security to properly guard the event.”
However, not all were happy with that decision.
"Unfortunately, me and my friends that went felt it was very lackluster and turned off by the fact that it was so uneventful, yet there was a door charge," said event goer Kirk Ruben. "I don't think it will do well against Stonewall Pride."