San Diego PRIDE’s 9-day event, centered around diversity, inclusion and love, kicks off Saturday.
Back in full force for the first time since the pandemic, this year, San Diego PRIDE is expected to be even more extra. Over the next nine days, an estimated 250,000 people will gather in Hillcrest, where rainbows signify the importance of this neighborhood to the LGBTQ community.
Local bars and restaurants are elevating their decorations to match the high energy of the upcoming celebration, but this year feels different.
“I think tensions are higher than ever,” Urban Mo’s manager and bartender Jason Kordestani said.
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Kordestani is noticing a shift in conversations.
“I think that there’s going to be a louder presence. I think you’re going to see more signage,” Kordestani said. “I think that there’s a lot of emotions invested here. A lot of people have been affected by the rulings, the shootings.”
Event organizers acknowledged the traumatic few years many have experienced from the pandemic, hate crimes and the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and Justice Clarence Thomas’ recommendation that the court should reconsider the ruling on gay marriage.
“When you’re constantly under threat, when you’re constantly under harassment, when you’re constantly being discriminated against and the world is out to get you, your ability to celebrate is justice,” San Diego PRIDE executive director Fernando Lopez said.
That’s part of why this year’s PRIDE theme is “Justice with Joy.”
“It is an anxiety-inducing time right now, but the way that Hillcrest folks respond to that is to say, ‘we’re gonna march. We’re gonna be out and we’re gonna be proud and we’re gonna be excited about who we are,'” Hillcrest Business Association executive director Benjamin Nicholls said. “We’re not gonna let those troublesome things in society wear us down.”
The hope is more people will come out to support despite the anxiety many are feeling right now.
“Try not to let any negativity around us drag down what’s supposed to be a celebration,” Kordestani said.
Safety is also adding to that anxiety caused by recent mass shootings. The Hillcrest Business Association is applauding the San Diego Police Department which has been very hands on, meeting with groups to talk about safety.
They’re not disclosing some of that info, but the association said there has been discussions with night club owners.
Police are also advising people to carry valuables in their front pockets to avoid pickpockets, be aware of surroundings and do not accept drinks from strangers and monitor your drink at all times.