Due to the recent onslaught of anti-LGBTQ+ attacks directed at businesses and events this past year, Windy City Times spoke to the organizers of some of this year's biggest Pride Month events in Chicago to find out how they will be handling things, including their approach to security.
Among these events are Andersonville Midsommerfest June 9-11; Chicago Pride Fest June 17-18 in Lake View; Pride in the Park at Grant Park's Butler Field June 23-24; Navy Pier Pride on June 24; and Chicago's Pride Parade on June 25.
Parade goers urged to keep vigilant June 25
"It will be one of the largest Pride Parades in many years," said Coordinator Tim Frye of this year's event. He added, "There will be a recognition of the anti-LGBTQ actions that have taken place in the past few months directed at our community. The security of participants and spectators is being addressed as it has been for many yearsparticularly since the Orlando Pulse nightclub mass shooting."
A spokesperson for the Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) told Windy City Times that OEMC, Chicago Police and other city agencies work "closely each year with organizers to plan and prepare for the safety of Chicago's annual Pride Parade and other associated events celebrating the LGBTQ+ community.
"As part of our ongoing efforts, OEMC will be hosting a workshop in advance of the parade, bringing together city departments, agencies and organizers to review current situations and coordinate responses. OEMC will also activate the city's Emergency Operations Center EOC for Chicago's Pride Parade on June 25 in order to monitor the event and manage resources. Public safety remains the City of Chicago's top priority."
OEMC reminded parade-goers to be vigilant about their surroundings June 25 and report suspicious behavior either to event security or 911.
"For safety and preparedness at your fingertips this Summer, residents and visitors are encouraged to download the new Chicago OEMC App," the OEMC spokesperson said. "The public safety tool provides safety information, preparedness tips, emergency alerts, CHI Safe Walk, weather information and more in the palm of your hand. Users will also have access to current events and forecasts, radar, and other weather-related information as well. The app is now available through the Apple App and Google Play stores."
We anticipate that the parade will be celebratory, but at the same time, a show of strength. We hope everyone enjoys the parade. We also hope, as we do every year, that at least one person (hopefully more) watches the parade and realizes that 'they're not alone'...'they'll be ok.' Lots of people in the parade have undoubtedly had that moment (including people in PrideChicago). It makes it all worthwhile."
Tight gate security at Midsommarfest
Midsommarfest organizers will be taking "comprehensive measures" to attendees for the mid-June event, according to Andersonville Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Laura Austin.
She further explained, "The South Stage, historically located at the Clark and Foster intersection, has been relocated to a new location on Farragut, adjacent to Women and Children First bookstore, to allow for tighter security protocols, a safer entrance and clearer walking paths for all attendees at the busiest two festival gates. Our unwavering commitment to keep all attendees, vendors, staff and volunteers safe, leans also on the community. If you see something, say something, do something."
At a June 1 Pride Kickoff event at Pizza Lobo, Ald. Leni Maana- Hoppenworth (48th Ward), said about this year's Pride eventsincluding Andersonville Midsommerfest which is held in her ward "You need to show up for your neighbors, show up for your community, show up for Chicago, show up wherever you live, because Pride starts here. It starts now, and it doesn't end. We keep going, right? We're in this together."
Preparations already underway for Pride Fest
Chicago Pride Fest Chair and Northalsted Business Alliance Vice President Mark Liberson explained that,"In preparation for this year's Chicago Pride Fest we met with our security consultants in combination with the FBI and a Captain of our local Chicago Police Department regarding ensuring a safe event for this year.
"Pride Fest has always had a very large security presence, and in combination with the Chicago Police Department this year there will be additional members of our private security force working to ensure the safety of our entertainers, staff and guests. Guests entering the festival will see security presence at all gates, and all bags will be checked and there will be an ongoing watch for any suspicious activity or individuals throughout the day and evening."
Liberson, who is Region Four representative to the Global Advisory Council of Interpride, added, "In preparation for the Pride events that are being planned throughout our region, we are hosting a forum for [council] members to help them to be better prepared, sharing methods of security that are being used in different events across our region, and also will have guests from government agencies including the FBI who are working to keep our community safe joining us as a part of the conversation."
Heavy entrance security at Pride in the Park
"Pride in the Park is entering its fourth yearcontinuing the iconic two-day music festival as a queer celebration and as a protest to the continued attacks our community continuously faces," said Pride in the Park Chicago Head of Community Relations Chez Ordoñez. "We'll dance in spite of our haters; we'll dance to show everyone that with 'music, love, and community', they're never alone.
"Ensuring everyone's safety is at the forefront, with full body scanners and TSA-style pat downs at every entrance, going well above city standards for security per capacity. While everyone must go through security, attendees may choose whether they are more comfortable receiving a pat-down from a male or female that identify as those genders, respectively."
Navy Pier Director of Communications and Public Relations Felicia Bolton said, "We are thrilled to celebrate Pride all afternoon and night with guests of all ages at the People's Pier … Navy Pier works diligently to ensure all guests are in line with our policies. We work closely with our security team, the Chicago Police Department and other external agencies to ensure our events run smoothly."
She added, "This free program includes outstanding performances from members of the LGBTQIA+ community. The event will feature live music from the Chicago Gay Men's Chorus, Lakeside Pride Marching Band and Ariana DJ among other notable acts as well as dance, storytelling and family activities."
Liberson was adamant that the pervasive anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric would not dampen the community's sense of celebration this year.
"While recent attacks on the LGBTQ+ community have upset us all, we are not going to let those who oppose our rights prevent us from celebrating LGBTQ+ Pride and continuing to demand more, including protecting the rights of our drag and trans community members," he said. "The leading cause of deaths amongst children is guns, not drag queens nor members of the trans community, and the effort to distract the public from the real issues we face to create a safe society with lies about drag queen story time and gender neutral bathrooms is based in prejudice that we need to rebut and engage our allies to help turn back.
"We need to be the truth tellers and engage our allies to push these lies back and help to create a safe and welcoming society for all of its members, including the full LGBTQ+ community."
Navy Pier Pride and Chicago's Pride Parade are free to attend. The suggested donation for entry to Andersonville Midsommerfest is $10 while Chicago Pride Fest is $15. Pride in the Park tickets are $60 for one-day general admission, $110 for two-day general admission, $110 for one-day VIP admission and $210 for two-day VIP admission.
See andersonville.org/events/midsommarfest/, northalsted.com/pridefest, prideparkchi.com/, navypier.org/events/navy-pier-pride-2023/ and www.chicagopridecalendar.org/ .
To download the app, visit chicago.gov/city/en/depts/oem.html .