More police officers than ever before are assigned to patrol Sunday’s pride march in Manhattan, two weeks after a shooting rampage in an Orlando, Florida gay bar left 49 patrons dead, NYPD Commissioner William Bratton said Thursday.
The NYPD is assigning cops to “rooftop observation posts ... to look down at the crowds and try to detect any suspicious activity,” Chief of Patrol Carlos Gomez said at a news conference at the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in the West Village.
Police also will use radiation detectors, bomb-sniffing dogs, counterterrorism officers and thousands of other cops in plainclothes and uniform, some armed with heavy weaponry, Gomez said.
Gomez said the department expects more than the estimated 1.6 million spectators who attended last year’s parade, which begins at noon at 5th Avenue and East 36th Street, with 20,000 marchers, and moves south to the Stonewall Inn.
“Gay or straight, come on down,” said Bratton, who said he’ll be marching with his wife.
The parade, called the Heritage of Pride, commemorates the 47th anniversary of a riot following the NYPD’s June 28, 1969, raid of the Stonewall Inn, a Manhattan bar frequented by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patrons.
The parade began four decades ago as an annual event to protest government harassment of what is now known as the LGBT community. Now, for the 2016 parade, the NYPD has outfitted a patrol vehicle with rainbow-colored emergency lights, a nod to the LGBT-rights movement symbol, along with the hashtag #NYPDOutAndProud.
Bratton said the department’s progress on LGBT issues was akin to a mea culpa.
“There’s no denying that out of that terrible experience came so much good — that it was the tipping point, if you will,” he said, adding: “An apology? I don’t think so. I don’t think that’s necessary. The apology is all that has occurred since then.”
The June 12, 2016 killings in Orlando, by Queens-born Omar Mateen, who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State during the shooting, left 50 dead, including Mateen, at the bar Pulse.
Parade organizer NYC Pride announced Thursday that the owner and entertainment manager of Orlando’s Pulse nightclub will be honored at the parade. Barbara Poma, owner, and Neema Bahrami, entertainment manager, will ride on the lead float.
David Studinski, a chairman of the parade committee, said at the news conference that it’s understandable for would-be parade goers to feel “anxious” and “nervous” in the aftermath of the Orlando shootings.
“The important thing is that we remember those 49 people we lost last week, and so many other lives that we’ve lost — and we don’t hide,” Studinski said.
“The worst thing that we can do as a community is to hide,” he said. “Many of us started in closets and the last that thing any of us should do is to go back into them.”
Also at the news conference, Bratton criticized an analysis released this week by the NYPD’s inspector general that founhd no link between quality-of-life policing and the rate of felony crime. Bratton, a backer of broken-windows policing, called the report “fatally flawed,” and “of no value to the NYPD.”
The Department of Investigation, which oversees the inspector general, defended the report, saying in a statement that its “findings cannot be quieted by city officials who do not agree with them.”