San Diego's annual Gay and Lesbian Pride Weekend began today with a parade of 200 floats and contingencies. A group of 70 children, parents and grandparents began the parade with celebration and festivity as part of the Family Matters contingency.
Shortly after beginning their march, a tear gas device exploded just beside the families. As this chemical irritant filled the air, parents and grandparents seized the children and ran. Neighbors and business owners quickly opened their doors to immerse the children in water, and Pride officials immediately implemented their emergency plan. Four people were hospitalized, including a three-year old girl. Seven additional children, a pregnant mother and numerous other adults were treated for respiratory difficulties, eye and skin irritations.
Family Matters, a local gay and lesbian parenting organization, was marching together as a group of families after being presented with a Community Service Award for Outstanding Community Organization.
C. Ray Drew, Executive Director of the Family Pride Coalition, a national organization representing gay and lesbian parents, was a participant in the parade and directly beside the device when it exploded. Drew said, "This was, quite simply, a terrorist act. I can't imagine how disturbed and psychotic someone must be to express their hate by deliberately harming small children and babies."
Drew continued, "Every day, we hear the radical right call us pedophiles and a threat to children. Mentally disturbed people feed off the hate-filled rhetoric of the radical right. It emboldens the violent, disturbed person with a sense of legitimacy. We as a nation must recognize the profound harm to children and families caused by the radical right and hold them accountable for their hate."
As of 11:00 PM, PDT, the San Diego Police Department had not apprehended the suspect. Pride events were continuing as planned with security in place.
Drew said, "Our families will continue to live their lives with love, commitment, respect and pride, OUR family values. No terrorist can take that away from us."
Mandy Shultz, Executive Director of San Diego Lesbian and Gay Pride, said, "This is an example of the increasing incidence of hate crimes against our community. Nothing can diminish the success of this event or the pride that our community feels. The staff and volunteers of Pride reacted immediately to protect our community against further harm."
The Family Pride Coalition is a national organization devoted to protecting and supporting the families of gay and lesbian parents.