The Pulse Nightclub attack in June of last year left an immeasurable impact on the lives of the family and friends of the 49 individuals who were murdered that night.

But the impact on LGBT events and festivals in the wake of the worst LGBT hate crime in modern-American history is measurable in the increased dollars organizations have spent and will continue to spend on security – even when no credible threats present themselves.

“As the saying goes, we prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” said Wilton Manors Police Chief Paul O’Connell. For the upcoming Stonewall Street Festival in Wilton Manors, O’Connell said the bigger threat, as compared with a possible Pulse-style shooting attack, is someone driving a vehicle into the crowd, similar to the attacks in London and Nice.

O’Connell said there won’t be as many law enforcement personnel as last year’s Stonewall, which occurred a week after Pulse, but that there would be an increased police presence.

That increased presence, along with barricades and other safety measures, have resulted in a doubling of security costs for Stonewall – about $42,000. Working with Wilton Manors police will be the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, the Broward Sheriff’s Office, FBI, and Homeland Security.

“This is the new reality that Wilton Manors [which requires uniformed officers] has placed on us,” said Jeff Sterling, CEO of the Wilton Manors Entertainment Group [WMEG], which is working with the city to organize the event. Sterling said the added security costs meant that WMEG couldn’t afford to do some things it wanted to do, including adding more entertainment. But, he said, it’s not something that will hold WMEG back forever. “It will be twice as large as it is now. So, one more year is not the end of the world.”

The increased security costs almost meant the end of last year’s Wicked Manors, or at least the involvement of the Pride Center, the event’s organizers. The organization had to spend three times what it spent in 2015 – from $9,000 to $27,000. A combination of increased financial assistance from the city and help from sponsors covered the additional security costs.

Miik Martorell, president of Pride Fort Lauderdale, said his organization has been relatively lucky so far. Last year’s Pride only required about $5,000 in security costs. But it was still a doubling in expenses over the previous year’s festival.

The nature of Pride Fort Lauderdale, which is contained to one area and doesn’t include a parade like Stonewall, means that less extensive security measures are needed. Fort Lauderdale is also less stringent than Wilton Manors when it comes to who can be hired to provide security, said Martorell.

But, he added, the fear and nervousness over another possible attack is the same everywhere.


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