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Rexburg Pride ups security after protests last year

REXBURG, Idaho (KIFI)—The Rexburg LGBT community is preparing for its annual pride celebration this Saturday, June 15. Local News 8 has learned that at least one group of protesters plans to attend the event. Those protesters are linked to a hate group that attended last year.

The local LGBTQ community say they’ve had to hire additional security in preparation for this year’s event. This comes after confrontations with protesters during last year’s pride celebration.

Flourish point, the organization behind Pride, says several of their sponsors have pulled out or put distance between themselves and the event after last year.

Event director Dough Pawson says they’ve hired additional private security this year following a confrontation between attendees and members of a hate group last year.

"We want to create a safe environment for everybody," said Pawson. "So if you come to pride, you're going to feel safe. We have dogs there. We'll have security. We'll have police. So you should feel safe coming to pride this year. "

Assistant Chief Gary Hagen of the Rexburg Police told reporters that the police "do have things set up, you know. That way, if things do go south, we (Rexburg police) can take care of it and respond appropriately to whatever it is that comes."

I’ve been digging into all that happened at last year’s event, and some of these details have only recently come to light.

Drag performer, the self described Miss Jay, arrived to pride late. But Jay’s entrance created controversy.

“I had gone up to shake her (the drag performer's) hand and thank her for coming," said 2023 Pride attendee Mel Rayne-Martin. "When the protesters crowded in and one of them shoved me into her. I was not expecting that. I was there standing in line with a friend of mine who's visually impaired, and that was scary.” 

Rexburg law enforcement and security were forced to step in.

"We don't know who started it," said Hagen. "We would call it, like, the chest bumping. We don't know who started that. When we started seeing the crowds all coming together that's when we had our officers basically going in and just separating people out."

Even though the attendees were left physically unharmed, Mel says that's not the whole story.

“I was being pushed from behind and I stepped back and somebody else, somebody screamed and his foot went crunch," said Mel.

According to Mel, that scream came from the protestor's leader Ron Nate.

Nate, at the time, was a professor on BYU-Idaho campus and the leader of a local chapter of Mass Resistance, an anti-LGBT group, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

On their own website, Mass Resistance claims to be a “pro-family group”…unafraid to “look extreme compared to other groups” and “unwilling to compromise with the left.”

Local News 8 has reached out to Nate twice to get his side of the story, but he declined to talk about the incident.

Last year however, he described drag performers as “groomers” and pedifiles.”

“They had advertised that they're going to do drag queen shows. And so we're here to stand as protectors between the performers and the kids should that happen," Nate told reporters.

Since last year’s protest, the local chapter of Mass Resistance has remained largely silent, although they did tell Local News 8 in an email conversation they do have “a surprise” planned for the event Saturday.

"I'm not bringing my kids. I don't feel like they would be safe because of how aggressive the protesters got," said Rayne-Martin. "I agree kids should be safe, but kids should be safe from everybody. And that includes guys in camouflage with guns."

Since the incident, Nate is no longer the head of the local chapter of Mass Resistance. He is now the president of the Idaho Freedom Foundation lobbyist group.

Mass Resistance has said online that several of its protesters were attacked by attendees of the event. During conversations with the Rexburg Police, Local News 8 has found no evidence to corroborate these claims.

Article Topic Follows: Rexburg

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Seth Ratliff

Seth is a reporter for Local News 8.


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