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With the 2016 Republican National Convention taking place on its usual weekend, Cleveland’s annual LGBT pride parade and celebration was pushed back to August 13.
Then it was canceled altogether—for the first time since 1989.
In a July 28 letter posted to its website, the board of Cleveland Pride announced that the celebration of LGBT visibility and equality would not happen at all. The statement quoted Cleveland Pride President and CEO Todd J. Saporito explaining the decision.
We have been entrusted by our community to create a secure parade and festival environment for our LGBTQ brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, friends, and allies. Because of the changing social climate, Cleveland Pride did not have enough time to engage in the development of awareness programs and training that we believe is critical in today’s environment. Therefore, we regretfully cancelled our 28th annual parade, rally, and festival this year.
Saporito’s justification for canceling pride—which vaguely referenced safety and a “changing social climate”—was met with skepticism and outrage. The statement did not provide a specific reason for the cancellation—no threat or incident was named.
Immediately after the announcement, a petition called for Saporito to resign as president of Cleveland Pride. As of Monday morning, the petition has received 1,205 signatures—and a flurry of comments that insinuate a longstanding conflict between the LGBT community and Saporito and the Cleveland Pride organization.
“This parade has been happening for over 20 years,” wrote a petitioner named Richard, who pointed out that the Cleveland Cavaliers parade and the RNC both went off without a hitch. “You cannot just stop it because you feel like it’s a risk in Cleveland.”
As outrage over the cancellation grew among the local LGBT community, the LGBT Cleveland Community Center announced on Sunday night that it would stage an impromptu takeover of the city’s pride celebration to ensure that it would take place on August 13, as expected.
The statement from the LGBT center listed a number of local organizations enlisted to participate in reorganizing the festivities—including HRC, Stonewall Democrats, Equality Ohio, and more.
Since the decision to forge ahead with pride was a last-minute one, the statement said that all locations and other details would be announced in the coming days.
Mary Emily O'Hara is an LGBTQ reporter. Her work has appeared in Rolling Stone, NBC Out, Daily Dot, Broadly, Vice, the Daily Beast, the Advocate, Huffington Post, DNAinfo, Al Jazeera, and Portland's Pulitzer Prize-winning newsweekly Willamette Week, among other outlets.