St. Petersburg Police say they are investigating a threat made against St. Pete Pride Festival, which was brought to their attention after being posted on Facebook.
The post by a user who goes by the alias Jimmy Hutmaster states: “I am calling in my snipper friends. These fa***** (hate word) must be iraticated much like cockroaches. NOW.” The individual posted several similar posts to news stories about St. Pete’s Pride Festival, which takes place this weekend.
Yolanda Fernandez with St. Pete Police says they are aware of the posts and are investigating. They’ve also notified their federal partners about the post. “Sometimes people just vent on social media and there is no real threat there. But we need to know for sure,” Fernandez explained.
Ryan Menke saw the post on Facebook and immediately called police. Menke lost two close friends in the Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooting. “After what happened to our community with Pulse and the countless crimes towards the LGBT community, when I see something I am saying something,” Menke explained. “I don’t care if it is an idle threat, I’m not taking my chances.”
St. Pete Police say the man who posted the threat may face charges, even if it turns out he did not plan to carry out any violence.
The St. Pete Police Department says they have a very closely articulated security plan for St. Pete Pride, which includes undercover and uniformed officers, a podium with video surveillance and other measures that they could not specify.
Menke says while the threat concerns him, he won't let it get in the way of celebrating pride. “This is supposed to be a celebration. This should not be something we are in fear of. We’re not going to let someone put us back in the closet,” he said with a smile.
St. Pete’s Pride Festival is billed as the largest Pride celebration in Florida with more than 200,000 participants. It kicks off Friday with a free concert starting at 7 p.m. at North Straub Park. The main event is the parade on Saturday. Festivities begin at 2 p.m. The parade begins at 7 p.m. and winds around the Downtown Waterfront Area.