UP Center pushes against hate with a call for community

“Love wins.”
Community Pride flags flying at CU Pride Fest 2022. Photo by Tom Wray

CHAMPAIGN – The Uniting Pride Center of Champaign County has responded to concern about social media threats from a Florida-based extremist group.

The UP Center said that they wanted to take the attention away from the group, which they said was trying to stir up controversy, and those that they’ve harmed locally. The center said that the group has targeted individuals and businesses in Champaign County ahead of the CU Pride celebration next week. However, the extremist group does not have anyone actually in the area.

So, in response, the UP Center is calling for the community to join their Peace Team.

The Peace Team works to keep the peace, create safety, engage in intervention and de-escalation, and be in touch with appropriate first responders if needed during the Pride festival. It has been a part of the festival for years.

In addition to calling for people to join the team, the UP Center is opening up Peace Team training to anyone interested. The center will cover the costs, whether they volunteer or not.

Nicole Frydman, UP Center director of operations, said that training would benefit any Pride Fest volunteer, even if they were unable to join the Peace Team because all teams positions were filled. In fact, with the festival having a record number of booths this year, volunteers in all areas are needed.

“We wanted to make sure we gave people a way to be hopeful and helpful,” she said.

Frydman said that they are working with law enforcement to ensure safety, but that there is no evidence that threats would materialize.

“All the evidence we’ve found shows that there’s nobody on the ground engaged,” she said. “They’re keyboard warriors behind their screens, but they’re very good at terrorizing people.”

All planned CU Pride Week events are still on, including the Mx. Chambana Pageant this Saturday. The pageant will also have the mayors of Champaign and Urbana as guest judges.

The threats are not new. Anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and attacks have been on the increase nationally and even in Illinois. As both the board and Frydman said, “This is just another day that ends in -y for us.”

In a Facebook response to the threats, the board and staff had this statement.

“To those who dare attack us, we have only one thing to say: you will not win.

“Love wins.”

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