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Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2021-09-01



by Karen Hawkins

This article shared 1345 times since Wed Jun 20, 2001
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Though the city and police department are set in their decision to move the 20-year-plus Belmont Rocks celebration to Montrose Harbor, some GLBT activists have said they intend to stand their ground at Belmont.

The daylong event, held on Pride Sunday and predominantly attended by Blacks and Latinos, is a gay institution for many in the community and draws thousands of people from around the country.

In early May, officials citing concerns about public safety announced that the event was moving.

"It's such a strain on the whole neighborhood to have it all in the same area," said Ald. Bernie Hansen, whose ward includes the Pride parade and Belmont Rocks. "It's just too much of a drain."

In a letter dated Aug. 17, 2000, Hansen urges Park District General Superintendent David Doig not to issue permits for "events at any park in my ward the day of the Gay Pride Parade that are not directly related to the parade itself. ... These events draw unruly and raucous people into the neighborhood who have shown a blatant disregard for the residents of my ward and their property."

However, in January of this year, Belmont Rocks Coordinating Committee President Michael O'Connor was given a permit for the Rocks, leading Hansen to again write to Doig.

In a Jan. 17, 2001, letter, Hansen chastises Doig for issuing the permit and says, "I hope I do not have to pursue alternative avenues to prevent this group from again wreaking havoc on our neighborhood."

Hansen indicates in the letter that 23rd District Police Commander Richard Guerrero agrees with him on the matter.

By late March, O'Connor had received a revised park district permit, this one for Montrose Harbor.

O'Connor and others have taken issue with Hansen's depiction of the crowds at the Rocks as "unruly and raucous."

"There is nothing in the police record to indicate that any of this is true," O'Connor said. "I question his accusation. Who is he talking about?"

Hansen said in May that a command post will be set up notifying people that the Rocks event has been moved. The parking lot at Belmont will be closed and used as a staging area for the day's events, though the land south of the staging area will be open for picnics.

According to a city release, Montrose Harbor offers "improved access, expanded parking, more spaces for picnics, additional public conveniences, nearby beach facilities and a playground for children."

While O'Connor is upset with the way the move was carried out—without input from the Belmont Rocks Coordinating Committee—he said his focus is to make the most of the day.

"All I want to do is make sure we have a fun-filled day at Montrose Beach," he said. "We'll deal with ( the political situation ) on June 25."

Others in the community, however, reportedly aren't as willing to make concessions. People who spoke on the condition of anonymity said they intend to test the city's stated openness to having Belmont open to picnics. They said they're going to set up at Belmont as they always have and see how they are treated by the police.

There are those among them who believe that racism, not public safety, ultimately fueled the move to Montrose.

"It's unfortunate that the police ... are trying to resegregate Belmont Rocks," O'Connor said.

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