In the week following the June 29 Chicago Pride Parade, duel petitionsone demanding the parade be moved to downtown, the other asking that it stay in place in Lakeviewappeared online.
The first petition, posted at chn.ge/1mwLo8Q, petitions Pride Parade organizer Richard Pfeiffer to move the parade to downtown. As of the morning of July 6, it had 69 signatures.
"Chicago takes downtown safety seriously with tourists, attractions and keeping up with appearances...this could only work in our favor with the amount of people that attend," according to the petition, which was posted by Curtis Bumgarner. "Emergency escape routes would be better utilized, more Police Officers can be dispatched, etc. What the gay community needs to understand is we have been fighting for equality, inclusiveness and integration. Now that we clearly have it in Chicago-why not SHARE?"
The petition acknowledges that many small business owners in Lakeview might be apprehensive about such a change: "But having a parade in another location will not keep people from coming to Boystown afterwards … I feel this could be good for those businesses as it would allow owners to create a better atmosphere and allow for more safety precautions, not to mention there's still Pride Fest, which has grown in popularity."
The opposing petition, posted at chn.ge/1qL1n50, was initiated by the organization Uptown Uprising, and had 425 signatures as of the morning of July 6.
"The Chicago Pride Parade has had vice and noise for decades," the petition said. "It still brings in 1 million people and millions more in revenue to local neighborhood businesses. However, NIMBY [not in my backyard] residents have put their biases above all reason and wish to cancel the Pride Parade in our neighborhoods. This is a hindrance on small local businesses and really shows a NIMBY attitude towards marginalized groups that needs to be put to a halt."
Ald. Tom Tunney told WBBM-Radio that "he is not afraid" to consider a change of venue for the Chicago Pride Parade.
"We hear from our residents that they don't feel safe in their neighborhood," said Tunney on the June 30 broadcast. He added, "If there is an option to go downtown, will that make the conduct of the fans more reasonable? I'm not afraid to look at it."
Over a million people took part in the celebration this year. Organizers said there were no major incidents and Chicago Police said there were relatively few arrests. But concerns that the parade might have outgrown Lakeview, as well as the neighborhood's safety issues, have led to the suggestions that the parade might be more appropriately carried out downtown.
On July 1, Tunney told Windy City Times, that, "I'm not saying 'yes' and I'm not saying 'no,'" about a potential change of venue.
"We look at the parade route every year and evaluate how it went," he said, adding that his first inclination is to remember that it is essentially a "neighborhood event. … Part of its success is keeping it in a vibrant neighborhood. But the numbers have doubled over the last five years and we have made changes to the route in the interest of public safety."
He said that he had positive feedback from constituents about the organization and safety factors, but admitted many people had "a feeling it may be too overpowering."
Tunney added, "I'm always open to the idea of tweaking the parade," but no decisions could be made without consultations with the city.
Tressa Feher, chief of staff for Ald. James Cappleman, said Cappleman would have to see a plan of any proposed changes before commenting.
Sidetrack owner Art Johnston was firm that the parade should stay in Lakeview, adding that a shift in venue would ultimately be "the end of the parade."
Johnston said that the parade plays a critical role in the life of the neighborhood, and that "geography is important" for it to retain its character.
"Anytime you get a number of people together, there will be some problems," he added. "But the city has done an excellent job, and the organizers, and the 44th and 46th ward aldermen have as well. We have this issue every year, and I don't ever hear any real compelling reasons that it should be moved."
Shorty after the parade, Chicago Police Department released a statement that only eight arrests had been made during the event itself. Emergency vehicles and sirens were seen and heard throughout the parade, however, and there were widespread reports of trouble along Halsted Street Sunday night. At the June 2 CAPS meeting for Police District 19, police officials said that there were about 45 arrests between 5 a.m. June 29-5 p.m. June 30.
One incident that sparked widespread attention was the vandalism of a CPD squad car at Halsted and Broadway on Sunday afternoon. One man involved in the episode, Dionte Rice, 19, of the 11600 block of South Church Street, was charged with criminal damage to property June 30. He was ordered held on $25,000 bail by a Cook County judge, DNAInfo reported. Another woman, Petronial Donaldson, 28, was also charged June 30 for aggravated battery against a police officer during the parade. She was released on her own recognizance.
DNAInfo's article is at: dnain.fo/1pHaDaL .