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Organizers and volunteers work to keep those attending the Heartland Pride Festival safe

Posted at 10:47 AM, Jul 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-16 11:47:09-04

OMAHA, Neb (KMTV) — Anyone who has been to a Pride event knows they are all about being positive and celebrating who you are. 

But across the country, the amount of protests, disruptions and even threats of violence towards Pride events is rising.

“We try to keep everything as safe as possible but there has definitely been an increase in the number of people complaining but also the rhetoric,” said Pasha Ripley with Parasol Patrol.

Pasha Ripley is one of the founders of Parasol Patrol.

Parasol Patrol organizes volunteers across the country to provide positive distractions to keep the attention off of protesters and the focus on the pride celebrations.

“For instance, we will walk between the children and their families and the protesters using the umbrellas to shield them from seeing any signs or angry faces. We even have noise-canceling headphones for the littles because grown adults will bring bullhorns to yell at kids,” said Ripley.

By Friday afternoon groups had already organized protests for Heartland Pride Festival.

One group gathered at 84th and Dodge Friday afternoon to protest Children Hospital’s involvement in Pride activities and Friday evening several preachers gathered outside of CHI Health Center to protest the event.

There have been no specific threats made to Heartland Pride this year but that isn’t stopping organizers from taking extra steps to make sure everyone stays safe.

“We definitely take our security precautions. We are working with CHI Health to make sure all of our doors are locked where they need to be locked. We have secure entry, clear bag policy, we are also working with the Omaha Police Department and a couple of other organizations to make sure there are no issues with our festival,” said Olivia Morgan, who sits on the Heartland Pride Board of Directors.

Parasol Patrol wasted no time Friday gearing up to meet the protesters and lined the sidewalks outside of the CHI Health Center with their trademark Rainbow Parasols.

Pasha says even without the protesters Parasol Patrol will still be at Pride making sure everyone has a safe and positive experience.

“Even if there are no protesters at all our goal is to show these kids that they are loved and supported, not despite who they are but because of who they are. It's very important for them to see grown and know grown-ups are safe to talk to. If they are protesters out there to shield them from that vitriol and hate that is brought with them/

For folks interested in attending you can check out this year’s Heartland Pride Festival with the parade kicking off Saturday at 10 a.m.

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