Milwaukee PrideFest responds to shootings, announces plans for tribute

Milwaukee Pride on June 12 issued a statement expressing “absolute sympathy” after the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, and said there would be a tribute today at 4 p.m.

The organizers of the Milwaukee LGBT festival, which concludes today, said, “Our love and support goes to the victims, survivors, their friends and families, and hope that all can find peace in the wake of this horrifying event.”

Wes Shaver, president elect of Milwaukee Pride, said, “We are furious about this senseless violence. This act of terror sought to silence our community during a month of national LGBTQ celebration. We will not and cannot allow ourselves to be silenced.”

Shaver said PrideFest would continue today. Since 7:30 a.m., the all-volunteer team has been meeting with local, state and federal agencies to provide the highest level of security possible, according to a news release.

Organizers said three levels of security, including Milwaukee Police Department, Summerfest and PrideFest staff, patrol the grounds from open to close each year.

As a precaution, the festival today will introduce full metal detection at the admission gates and increase security staffing across all areas.

“Unlike some pride festivals, our grounds are open only to ticketed guests who pass through our front gates,” said Eric Heinritz, executive director of Milwaukee Pride, Inc. “All personal items are subject to search before entry, and we do not allow carry-ins. While some may find these rules inconvenient, our first and foremost priority must be the safety of our guests.”

In addition, the festival plans a tribute event at 4 p.m. at the Miller Lite Mainstage. Following a short presentation, PrideFest will honor a moment of silence for the Orlando victims throughout the entire festival grounds.

Today’s performers were encouraged to honor the tragedy during all scheduled performances.

“Today is a day for LGBTQ community solidarity,” said Michail Takach, communications director of Milwaukee Pride. “While thoughts and prayers are welcome, action is required. Today is a day to come out, to be seen, and to be heard, in honor of those whose day was stolen from them. Today is a day to remember where we started and why we started.

“Come together at the Milwaukee Pride Parade in Walker’s Point.  Come together at PrideFest at Milwaukee’s lakefront. Come together with our Proud Partners throughout Wisconsin.

“Wherever you are, today is a day to celebrate your right to live proud.”