US issues worldwide alert amid threat of violence against LGBTQ+ community

SUNDAY, MAY 19, 2024

The US State Department on Friday issued a worldwide caution security alert, saying it is aware of an increased potential for foreign terrorist organization-inspired violence against LGBTQ+ people and events.

"Due to the potential for terrorist attacks, demonstrations, or violent actions against US citizens and interests, the Department of State advises US citizens overseas to exercise increased caution," the department said in a statement.

The alert comes two weeks before the start of LGBTQ+ Pride Month in the United States.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement people in the LGBTQ+ community "continue to face insidious forms of stigma and discrimination."

The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security issued the announcement May 10 to raise awareness of “foreign terrorist organizations (FTOS) or their supporters potential targeting of LGBTQIA+-related events and venues.”

“Foreign terrorist organizations or supporters may seek to exploit increased gatherings associated with the upcoming June 2024 Pride Month,” the agencies wrote.

The announcement did not specify any locations or indicate the agencies were tracking any specific threats. According to the release, foreign terrorist groups and supporters have in the past promoted anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and targeted related events.

The release noted that June 12 marks the eighth anniversary of the attack on the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida. That was the deadliest attack on the LGBTQ community in U.S. history, leaving 49 people dead and 53 people wounded as “Latin Night” was being celebrated at the club. Gunman Omar Mateen was killed by SWAT team members after a three-hour standoff. He had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.

In June of last year, three alleged sympathizers of the Islamic State group were arrested in Vienna for attempting to attack a Pride event there, the release noted.

The release also noted possible signs to watch out for that might indicate a potential problem, such as violent threats made online or in the mail. Potential attackers might also try to take photos of security-related equipment or access points at events; attempt to get into restricted areas or impersonate law enforcement personnel; or chat up staff at various venues to get information like what types of events they have upcoming and what the crowd sizes might be.

Pride Month, held in June, is a particularly important time in the LGBTQ+ rights movement. After starting June 28, 1970, as New York City’s first Pride march, it has evolved into a nationwide event in which cities and towns across America hold marches both to call attention to specific issues such as same-sex marriage and to celebrate.

AP, Reuters

Photo by Reuters