June 10, 2017 at 10:19 am EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Mayor, police chief welcome Pride events, Equality march
Equality March, gay news, Washington Blade, LGBT events

Mayor Bowser was joined by LGBT members of her staff and other city officials at 17th and Church St., NW outside JR’s bar to dedicate a newly painted rainbow storm drain and an adjacent rainbow cross walk. (Washington Blade photo by Lou Chibbaro, Jr.)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Police Chief Peter Newsham said the city is fully prepared to welcome, accommodate and ensure the safety of tens of thousands of visitors and local residents expected to turn out this weekend for the Capital Pride parade and festival and the national Equality March for Unity and Pride.

Bowser and Newsham talked about the LGBT events set to take place in the nation’s capital June 10-11 during a joint ceremony and news conference at 17th and Church Streets, N.W., on Friday morning to showcase a newly painted rainbow colored street crosswalk and storm drain located in front of the gay bar JR’s.

Bowser and the city’s Department of Energy and Environment Director Tommy Wells said the rainbow storm drain was part of a city financed program to educate the public about environmental concerns over water quality from storm drains on city streets, which divert rainwater to the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers and to Rock Creek.

Under contract from the city, the Anacostia Watershed Society, a non-profit environmental group, is soliciting LGBT themed designs for storm drain murals on the 17th Street commercial strip from local artists.

After unveiling the rainbow storm drain and crosswalk, which was painted on 17th Street for the occasion of Saturday’s Capital Pride Parade, Bowser and Newsham responded to questions from TV news reporters about safety issues related to the Pride Parade and festival and the national LGBT Equality March.

Among the questions asked were whether D.C. police are prepared to safeguard participants in large events from a possible terrorist attack by a motor vehicle used to strike and run over people gathered on a street or open area similar to the recent terrorist attacks in Europe.

The reporters noted that on Thursday night a pickup truck driven by a 23-year-old man from a town just south of Richmond, Va., struck two D.C. police officers and a city Transportation Department worker in the Adams Morgan neighborhood, critically injuring one of the officers and seriously injuring the other.

Newsham told reporters and nearly 100 people who turned out to view the rainbow crosswalk and storm drain mural that police have no evidence to indicate the incident was terrorist motivated. He said police were investigating the incident to determine whether the driver intentionally struck the two officers and transportation worker.

Police charged the driver with assault with intent to kill and possession of an unregistered firearm after discovering an assault rifle inside the truck.

“We’ll have sufficient security out here,” Newsham said when asked by the Washington Blade if police were prepared for a possible disturbance during the Capital Pride events and Equality March.

“Right now we don’t have any threats to the Washington, D.C. area or specifically to this event,” he said.  “And we’re looking forward to having a successful event. You will see police officers out here. Our role is being out here to make sure we facilitate a successful and safe event,” he said.

Bowser told the gathering she would be marching in the Capital Pride parade on Saturday and was looking forward to the upcoming LGBT related events. Asked if she had a message for the LGBT visitors expected to participate in the Equality March and Pride events, she said, “The message is we can’t wait to see them and to celebrate our inclusivity in the nation’s capital.”

Bowser added, “You heard from our Chief of Police that our public safety planning is ever present in Washington because we’re always a high target location but we have no reason to think we’re not going to have a happy and safe Pride. We do ask people to be vigilant. If they see something out of the ordinary bring it to our attention.”

In a separate news briefing on the National Mall at 3rd Street organizers of the Equality March said they were pleased that final details for holding a rally at the end point of the march on the Mall were coming together nicely.

While several of the march’s national co-chairs talked to reporters more than a dozen workers were beginning construction of a stage where LGBT movement leaders and allies were expected to speak to a crowd of thousands.

Equality March founder and co-chair David Bruinooge has been reluctant to give a number on the size of the crowd expected to turn out for the march. But the permit approved this week for the march and rally by the National Park Service says Equality March organizers submitted in their application for the permit an estimate of 15,000 to 50,000 people expected to participate in the march and rally.

Bruinooge said that estimate was submitted by volunteer members of the march’s logistic committee and he wasn’t sure how they arrived at those numbers. He said organizers were hopeful that many more people would show up for the march on Sunday morning, where it is scheduled to begin at 17th and I Street, N.W. near the White House at 10 a.m.

“Nobody knows how many people will turn out,” he said.

At least four of the other national co-chairs said that regardless of the turnout the march and rally would have an important positive impact on the LGBT community throughout the country.

Bruinooge and co-chair Sue Doster, who serves as co-president of an association representing LGBT Pride leaders in the U.S. and abroad, said there will be solidarity marches and rallies spawned by the Equality March in at least 110 U.S. cities and towns on June 11.

“I think my expectations of how this march will go have already been met,” said National Co-Chair Anika Simpson. “We have got a wonderful group of allies and grass roots organizers and leaders of national organizations that are all coming together and working collaboratively to make sure we have a wonderful impactful event,” she said.

“As a black queer feminist, the only reason I have agreed to serve as a national co-chair is because of the depth of commitment and diversity and having a majority people of color steering committee and making sure that the rally reflects the diversity of the LGBT community,” Simpson said.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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