Safety concerns swirl around Warwick Pride event after it becomes target of possible hate crime

Organizers say there’s also a fake Facebook page posing as an official page for the Pride event.

Blaise Gomez

Jun 9, 2023, 8:59 PM

Updated 318 days ago

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Signs for the Warwick Pride Celebration Sunday are colorfully decorated with a rainbow and the words "community equals love." The peaceful message, however, is being replaced by fake ones that have been seen all over the village and town this week.
They look similar to the real signs but include additional wording falsely claiming the LGBTQ+ event is welcoming “minor attracted persons.” 
“Basically, it’s a smear campaign," said organizer Melissa Shaw-Smith. "These folks are trying to connect the narrative to a more national message that is basically about hatred.” 
Organizers say there’s also a fake Facebook page posing as an official page for the Pride event. It has a video of a person discussing the alleged difference between pedophilia and "minor attracted persons," as well as what organizers say is a false video of someone provocatively dancing claiming to show what some of the program will include over the weekend.
There's also a bogus website pretending to be part of the annual Pride celebration that's put on by the Warwick Community Center. 
“This is the first year that we have had a very, very vocal, toxic narrative on social media,” said Shaw-Smith. 
Event organizers have notified police and say the behavior is being considered a possible hate crime that could be connected to a national organization identified as a hate group.  
Warwick police haven’t said that just yet but say they do have safety concerns. 
Hundreds of LGBTQ community members and allies participate in the event, which includes a march and community showcase each year. Organizers say no matter what - they won’t let “haters” get them down. 
“We are not engaging with these people. We are not going to let them destroy the joy that we have here every year," said Shaw-Smith.
Police are worried about the bogus messaging, considering the rise in hate crimes against the LGBTQ community. An investigation is underway and anyone with information about who’s making or placing the signs to asked to contact the Warwick Police Department at 845-986-3423. 


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