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  WINDY CITY TIMES

1 million at Chicago Pride, Orlando victims remembered
by Matt Simonette
2016-06-26

This article shared 12 times since Sun Jun 26, 2016
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The 47th Annual Pride Parade June 26 began with a moment of silence.

The 2016 event opened with a procession of individuals holding up photos of the 49 persons murdered at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando just two weeks earlier.

As the procession marched through Uptown, then Lake View, the exuberant crowd stopped, if only briefly, to silently remember the tragedy that took place in Florida early June 12. Even with a boisterous crowd, Orlando remained at the forefront of the 2016 parade; marching units and floats sponsored by everything from local bars to national corporations marked their solidarity with the shooting victims.

City officials estimated attendance to be at about one million spectators. Security was heightened this year in light of the shootings; Chicago Police said additional officers and 160 private security personnel would be used. Parade officials had previously announced that the number of parade entries would be limited to 160, so the parade could end earlier. As of press time no major disturbances or disruptions along the parade route had been reported, but anti-gay protestors were at the end of the route.

Chicago and Oak Park chapters of Scouts for Equality led the color guard, and carried both the American flag and the official Pride flag for the parade. In July, 2015, the Boy Scouts of America lifted its ban on gay adults and families but left the decision to individual troops as to whether gay individuals could serve as leaders.

"My wife and I are so proud our son will be helping to lead the Chicago Pride Parade," said Mary Anderson, co-leader of the Oak Park Chapter of Scouts for Equality and Scouts for Equality national board member. "We want to show the Boy Scout troops across Illinois and the country that they need to be inclusive of all families."

Members of Gay Liberation Network carried an enormous banner decrying anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim hate. Thresholds CEO Mark Ishuag, marching with his organization's contingent, wore a "State Funding Now" t-shirt to call attention to the Illinois state government's ongoing budget crisis.

The Night Ministry headed up Chicago Coalition Welcoming Churches' enormous contingent. achurch4me MCC's entry featured a huge inflatable Jesus, complete with a lamb and rainbow sash. Members of Temple Sholom marched alongside members of Congregation Or Chadash; the two synagogues recently merged. Members of Beth Hillel Congregation Bnai Emunah in Wilmette also participated, as did Unity in Chicago, Dignity/Chicago and the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago.

Members of Bikes and Mics rode motorcycles dressed as fictional characters, among them James Bond and a "Bond girl" painted gold; Batman and Catwoman; and Sleeping Beauty and Maleficent. Employees of Orbitz rolled two enormous beach balls along the route. Bozo the Clown rode atop WGN's float.

Among the elected and non-elected officials and candidates who took part in the day were Mayor Rahm Emanuel; Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle; U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk; Illinois Treasurer Mike Frerichs; state Reps.Greg Harris, Kelly Cassidy, Ann Williams, Christian Mitchell and Jaime Andrade, Jr.; state Sens. Tom Cullerton and Daniel Biss; U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley; Alds. Deb Mell, Tom Tunney, Ray Lopez, James Cappleman, Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, Pat Dowell and Joe Moore; City Clerk Susana Mendoza; Commissioner Mona Noriega of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations; Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commissioner Mariyana Spyropoulos; state senate candidate Omar Aquino; and state house candidate Theresa Mah.

U.S. Rep. (and U.S. Senate candidate) Tammy Duckworth reflected on the more somber tone this year. "A year ago we'd had the Supreme Court decision, which was one of great joy, and this year, it's following the massacre, where uncontrolled weapons were used to target people," Duckworth said. "We have so much more work to do on sensible gun legislation. That's why I participated in the sit-in this week. I'm going to keep working on this issue. No one should be targeted. No one who's out having a good time should not make it through the night. While I always have a lot of fun at Pride, today is one where there's also great sadness and a real determination to try to do even more."

Incumbent U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk also participated in the parade.

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky added, "Nothing will squelch the spirit and the determination of the LGBT community. We were just shocked and dismayed by this hate crime. No one should be afraid to go out at night and have a good time and gather with your friends and have a good time, which Pulse had been. This is part of what spurred the congress to do something about guns. It cannot just stand for a moment of silence—that silence has become deafening. Having said all that, this is another great parade, another great day, and we're all celebrating equality and being together."

Congressional candidate Brad Schneider said, "We need to make sure that we have sensible gun control legislation that would make these situations less frequent and make guns harder to get. Banning assault weapons would be a big piece of it. So maybe we look for elements of hope to come out [of the Orlando shooting]. Those 49 people, out having fun on a Saturday evening—they could have been our sons or daughters or brothers or sisters. They were us."

State Rep. Kelly Cassidy said that friends and family were concerned about the safety of marching this year. "I'm reminding them that this began as refusing to be afraid. This began as refusing to be in the closet. This began as refusing to be intimidated out of who we really are. Maybe it's time to remind everyone of that."

Cook County State's Attorney candidate Kim Foxx said, "Last year the parade was celebrating marriage equality, an absolute high, the ability to celebrate love, no matter who you are. For this year, to be coming off the heels of such a tragedy shows the resiliency of who we are as a people. I'm really glad people show that resilience by showing up and continuing to love. We absolutely have to be here, just as loud, just as vibrant, just as vigorous as we were last year celebrating love. There's no way we're letting hate defeat us."

Ald. Raymond Lopez added that the parade is "a great tradition in Chicago. To see so many people still come out, despite everything you've seen in the news, especially in Orlando, speaks volumes about the resilience of our community. We're going to stick together and keep fighting—we're a community of fighters. We fought for the right to get married and now we're just fighting for the right to be."

The sentiment was shared by Ald James Cappleman. "Love always wins," he said. "The LGBT community won't be intimidated—we're fighters."

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, said, "Today, like decades past, we continue to mark our pride, we continue to show that we are a community that is united. We are a community that is multi-racial. We are a community of all backgrounds that says no to bigotry, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, to oppression in all its forms."

City Clerk (and candidate for Illinois comptroller) Susana Mendosa said, "What happened in Orlando was a double-hate crime—you had one group, the LGBT community and then Hispanics who were murdered. In City Council I had the honor of reading every one of those names into the record, and I did so with a very Hispanic 'flair.' I thought, 'This is my moment to honor these men and women, and I should say their name correctly, as their mothers or fathers would say it.' While I enjoy coming to this parade every year, this year it's very special. Whether its our brothers and sisters who are LGBTQ, or our brothers and sisters who are Muslim, I feel like we receive this common hatred from groups out there, and we need to stand up and fight against that. And the best weapon to do that is love."

Activists Theresa and Mercedes Volpe-Santos designed the 49 Orlando signs, which were printed by Topweb, and sponsored by Windy City Times and ChicagoPride.com . Most of the signs were carried by members of the Association of Latinos/as Motivating Action (ALMA) and Vida/Sida, as well as other volunteers.

After the parade, Theresa said, "The crowd was completely respectful and for the most part silent as we walked the entire parade route. It was so very quiet, but occasionally a crowd goer would yell, 'We are Orlando!' You could hear people shushing the crowd and people actually listened and turned silent.

"Clubs lowered the sound of their booming music as we passed by. I heard folks say several times the photos gave them the chills. People kept thanking us and saying they will never forget the victims. People would ask to take photos with certain signs because the victim was their cousin, or a friend of a friend. I broke down at one point when a parade marshall grabbed my arm and said, 'Thanks for carrying my sister's [Brenda Lee Marquez McCool] photo.'

"These victims had families, and we're living life, and now these families are missing them. It hit home because people in the crowd had real connections to the victims and sympathized with the loss. They heard loud and clear, this crime was a hate crime against the LGBTQA community and we stand together in the face of hatred. We will continue to stand together until everyone in our community is treated equally. It really felt like a memorial procession. People were crying and wiping away tears. They were there to have a good time but realized people in our community senselessly lost their lives."

"This year is just very special after the horrible tragedy in Orlando," said state Rep. Greg Harris. "Everyone is gathering here in Chicago to prove love wins."

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This article shared 12 times since Sun Jun 26, 2016
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