WEST CHESTER — With the cancellation of the first Community OutFest scheduled for Oct. 1, Business Improvement Executive Director John O’Brien said at Tuesday’s Borough Council meeting that he was uncomfortable with some of the comments the BID received.

O’Brien said those opposed to the LGBTQ+ event were inciting hate.

“Even though the majority of people in this town are supportive … I haven’t seen that from the West Chester community,” O’Brien told the panel.

“This event was designed to bring joy to the town and celebrate those who are often marginalized.”

Sponsors BID and the Oscar Lasko YMCA planned to close two blocks of Gay Street to celebrate National Coming Out Day. The event will feature drag queens, activities, music, vendors and performances.

O’Brien said what would be a welcoming and inclusive event was meant to bring people together.

“We as a community need to come together and if there are people who want to make this happen, contact the district.”

As reasons for withdrawing the permit application, O’Brien said volunteers were hard to come by and an increased police presence was needed, something the BID could not afford. He did not want to see the protesters on the street.

“I didn’t want it to be a distraction,” O’Brien said.

The BID director said some don’t understand.

“The elephant in the room is drag queens,” O’Brien said. “There is a big misunderstanding.

“Some compare it to a burlesque show. There is ignorance of what is about to happen.”

City Council President Michael Stefano said he was sorry the event was canceled.

“I’m 100 percent in favor of moving forward to create some support,” Stefano said.

O’Brien referred to the six-day Stonewall riots that took place in June 1969, when police raided a popular gay bar in New York City. This event is often referred to as the beginning of the PRIDE movement, and the first PRIDE parade was held a year later.

In 1969, homosexuality was still a criminal offense in New York City, and it wasn’t the first time the LGBTQ+ community fought back.

The Stonewall Inn is now a national monument.


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