SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The Savannah Pride Festival is back in-person for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Organizers expect more than 30,000 people to celebrate throughout the weekend, but with anti-LGBTQ sentiments on the rise, across the country, they say security will be tight. “Whether it’s anti-Semitism, racism, anti-immigrant bigotry or anti-LGBT bigotry we’re here standing for caring for others,” says Dusty Church, Board Chair of the First City Pride Center.

A major part of that caring, is keeping people safe. Church says the recent uptick of anti-LGBTQ laws and protests across the country, and in Georgia, have brought heightened concern to this year’s festivities.

Thursday night saw loud protestors, yelling slurs, outside a pre-pride event at Starland Yard. “We, fortunately, for years, didn’t have to face that kind of abuse, because it was not acceptable behavior. That behavior has been made acceptable again, and I hate that those folks had to experience it,” says Church. He says organizers have worked closely with Savannah Police, Fire and City Hall for months planning for street closures, adding barricades for pedestrian safety, and deploying enough officers on the street as both a deterrent and rapid response to any possible violence.