Cleveland Pride organizer defends controversial decision to cancel over security concerns

Police are not aware of any "credible threats"
Posted at 7:21 PM, Jul 29, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-29 19:28:07-04

The organizer behind a major LGBT pride festival in Cleveland defended his decision to cancel the annual event with just two weeks notice.

Cleveland Pride CEO Todd Saporito doubled-down on concerns about security, first laid out in a tersely-worded statement he issued on Thursday.

That statement, citing a "changing social climate,” left some members of the LGBT community saddened and confused.

Cleveland Pride is a nonprofit organization, with the sole purpose of planning and organizing the annual pride festival and parade, which this year was scheduled for Saturday, August 13. Vendors are already demanding refunds. Saporito said he would honor those requests.

On Friday, Saporito said the cancelation came after city leaders and police waited too long to address his safety concerns, following the June massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

“I guess I would place it with [Ward 3 City Councilman] Kerry McCormack,” Saporito said. “He would be the representative who should actually be bringing to the table those parties as we’re requesting them.”

But earlier in the day Councilman McCormack disputed any concerns over safety.

“There are no credible threats to the city of Cleveland or to the LGBT community here in Cleveland,” McCormack said, noting the city just hosted the Republican National Convention and a massive Cavaliers victory parade with few problems.

When pressed, Saporito denied the cancelation had anything to do with a lack of planning on his part.

"We’re on the same track and schedule that we always are,” Saporito said. "We have the same number of people. We have the same number of players.”

He also said Cleveland Police did not ask him to cancel and he confirmed he’s received no "credible threats."

Reaction to news of the cancelation was swift.

“I was just…floored!” Cleveland-based radio talk show host and Huffington Post columnist Ken Schneck said.

A column he penned on Thursday night had already been shared thousands of times on social media by Friday afternoon.

“I have the privilege of being out in the workplace and in my family and all parts of my life,” Schneck said, “But for so many of our LGBT brothers and sisters here in Cleveland, it’s their one day to be out.”

Now, other groups are stepping up to fill the void that weekend, with new, hastily-planned events that have yet to be announced.

“We can’t go back into the closet,” Ryan Zymler with the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland said, “We can’t be afraid to be who we are and so pride is an opportunity for us to be visible.”


Follow Derick Waller on Facebook and Twitter

Follow @derickwallerTV

Download the newsnet5 app: