Ever since the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus decided to cancel its planned international tour following the results of last November's presidential elections and travel to Alabama, Mississippi and other southern states instead, security has been top of mind.
"Our concern ranges from personal safety to, you know, a bomb threat," says the ensemble’s executive director, Chris Verdugo.
But in light of last month’s far-right rally in Charlottesville and subsequent protests, the chorus has decided to double the security budget for its upcoming "Lavender Pen Tour."
"We are looking to raise $30,000 in 30 days for our enhanced security measures," says chorus board chair Steve Huffines. "Based on our conversations with local law enforcement officials, we believe that the odds of us encountering a hostile event are actually quite low. But the board is committed to erring on the side of caution to insure that everyone on the Lavender Pen Tour is kept safe throughout our journey."
Tour security director and retired police sergeant Karen Alberts is keeping the the details of the security plan under wraps. Her team of four -- three of them women with anti-terrorism backgrounds -- have been coordinating plans with state and federal agencies in the places the singers will be visiting, like Birmingham, AL and Knoxville, TN.
"Things have changed a bit since Charlottesville," Alberts says. "All the local law enforcement agencies in the areas we’re going to be traveling to are aware of our presence."
Alberts and her team are also working with the members of both the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus and the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir (the two ensembles will be touring together) on personal safety. "We're teaching them the basics: don’t go out alone, don’t engage, safety in numbers, that type of thing."
Meanwhile, the choir’s callout for funds to pay for the extra security has caused a backlash on Twitter, particularly from people in the south.
The Lavender Pen Tour happens Sunday, Oct. 8 though Saturday, Oct. 14 in cities across Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina, Florida and Tennessee.
There will be a send-off concert on Saturday, Sept. 30 at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. Tickets and information here.