Keizer Pride Fair canceled over safety concerns

KEIZER, Ore. (KGW) — The Keizer Pride Fair will not return in 2022, with the organizer citing personal and community safety concerns.

Claire Snyder put together the first community Pride event in 2021 with about three weeks of preparation.

“It grew very quickly,” Snyder said.

Hundreds gathered at Chalmers Jones Park to celebrate LGBTQIA+ inclusion. The event included resources for families to foster youth who may not be supported by their own families.

To Snyder, the mission of acceptance and inclusion is personal.

“I have two trans children,” she explained.

However, a group from southern Oregon came to last year’s event with signs condemning LGBTQ+ people. The hateful language resulted in pushback and Keizer police officers arrived to move demonstrators away.

Then, Snyder began receiving worse messages online.

“Personal threats against me and my children,” she told city council members through tears in June 2021.

Mayor Cathy Clark and other members of the council condemned such attacks and voiced support of the Pride Fair.

“It was wonderful,” Clark said. “I enjoyed my time there as well.”

However, Snyder has grown increasingly uneasy over the last few months.

“The action’s just not matching the words,” she explained.

She said the city has not done enough to push back against anti-LGBTQ and racist presenters coming to the Salem-Keizer area, including some speakers with the Reawaken America tour last month.

In an online post, Snyder noted groups known for exclusionary speech attended the mayor’s prayer breakfast.

In a statement, the mayor told KGW the prayer breakfast was hosted by the Keizer Chamber of Commerce, without use of city funds, and tickets were available to any member of the public to purchase.

Snyder contends the bigger picture is that the city has not taken sufficient action against hate speech.

Mayor Clark’s full statement emphasized the city’s support of diversity and inclusion:

In 2021, Claire Snyder created and hosted a Pride Fair event. Public facilities such as Chalmers Jones Park are available for any community members to host gatherings and events. The forms for using public facilities are at this link

During the event, a group of people from an organization based in Rogue Valley came and behaved in a disruptive and intimidating manner. Keizer Police intervened. After the event, Ms. Snyder and attendees commended Keizer police in public testimony at city council for their work of de-escalation.

To my knowledge, issues with doxxing and other bullying and intimidation were handled between Ms. Snyder and the Keizer Police Department and I have not been advised of any issues with follow up. The city of Keizer condemns any and all acts of bullying and intimidation.

The 2021 Pride event, which I attended, was a community celebration which was enjoyed by many from Salem and Keizer.

I have not been contacted by Ms. Snyder about an event for 2022. Since the event permit is pretty standard, there would be no action needed by the Council in order for her to host her event once again or for any other individuals or organizations to do the same. 

Earlier this year, Ms. Snyder contacted the city regarding her feelings of fear due to the “Reawaken America” event. Our police and other law enforcement agencies worked together to ensure peaceful assembly in compliance with Oregon and U.S. Constitutional requirements. 

Last week, the Keizer Chamber of Commerce hosted the annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, as they have done for decades. No city resources sponsored the event and any member of the public could purchase a ticket.

Keizer is a diverse community. Events of all types occur in and at public facilities year round. Last year’s Pride Fair was one way in which an individual community member made a difference and created an opportunity to bring understanding through a celebration of our diversity. 

I hope that anyone who would like to host events in our city will do so and find an environment of welcome in Keizer.

RELATED: Community plans more action against Newberg school board for Pride, BLM flag ban

Snyder ultimately canceled the Pride Fair, fearing LGBTQ+ opponents are more emboldened to retaliate. To those opponents, Synder said she did not wish to force a change in their opinions, but rather have them back off and give space for inclusion.

“Think of something you’re born with, you appreciate about yourself. And imagine someone flying a flag outside your door [that says] ‘blue eyes suck,’ [and] ‘if you don’t want to see my flag, stay in your house.’ You can’t change your blue eyes. You can’t just walk outside your house and ignore what’s in your face. All I’m asking is to be seen as a human, for my children to be seen as human beings that exist here and deserve to celebrate their life and who they are,” Snyder said. “Safety is not just that I’m not murdered, that I’m not beaten, that blood is not coming out of my body. Safety is knowing that my neighbor, rather than threatening me, is willing to stand next to me and say you’re a human too and you deserve to be here.”

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