Wednesday, April 22, 2015

PRIDE: Against Expert Advice, Parade Returns To Boystown

The 2015 Chicago Pride Parade will be held in Boystown, not downtown, according to multiple city sources who spoke with CWB on the condition of anonymity this week. We first reported the development Tuesday morning.

How organizers will address concerns of overcrowding, brawls, medical response difficulties, and persistent post-parade crime remains to be seen.

But sources who spoke with CWB stated unequivocally that virtually every city department involved in the parade, including all emergency services, have expressed their beliefs that the parade should be moved to a more manageable location.

Of course, first responders don't make that decision. Politicians and the city's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events do.

As CWB reported on March 31, the city's Office of Emergency Management and Communications cited fears of "terrorism" in denying a Freedom Of Information Act request seeking Pride-related documents. The Chicago Police Department is in violation of state law for failing to respond to a similar request. Both departments' handling of the document requests are under review by the Illinois Attorney General's Office.

The Department of Streets and Sanitation alone has seen its
Pride Parade expenses double in recent years. Parade organizers
paid a "city services" invoice of $20,000 in 2011; $35,000 in 2012;
and $40,000 in 2013 and 2014.
While those issues play out, CWB has secured hundreds of pages of Pride documents from city sources. While there are many interesting tidbits (yes, the alderman did order Streets & San to re-sweep Belmont in front of his restaurant one year), none seems more important now than a couple of documents with a boring title: "Parade Marshal Plan."

According to those documents, filed by parade leader Richard Pfeiffer each year with the city, organizers have actually reduced the number of safety marshals and monitors they've promised to provide in recent years. That's despite the fact that the parade has drawn increasingly large record-setting crowds each year.

Monitors And Marshals

Following crowd control concerns at the 2011 parade, organizers reduced
the number of marshals and monitors they promised to provide.
The Pride Parade's troubles began after large crowds packed Halsted Street to watch the event in 2011.  ABC7 reported
"…It was really bad, packed, too crowded," said Val Tompkins. "We couldn't see it, there were 10 rows of people." 
Tompkins and and Trisha George drove from Coldwater, Mich., to see the parade. They say..some areas were dangerous. 
"There were kids getting pushed," George said.
Things got really bad at Belmont and Halsted in 2011:
On the west side of Halsted, a crowd as thick as a block had been smashed into such a tight space between barricades that some people began to yell for help. Police pulled one woman out of the crowd at approximately 12:05 p.m. because she said she felt light-headed, while another woman screamed that she was having a panic attack from being trapped in the crowd.
Police did not confirm earlier reports that officers were injured in that crowd, despite repeated inquiries from Windy City Times.
Despite attempts by police to hold off crowds, the sheer number of people pushing from behind forced many to jump the fence barricades and stand along the parade route. Police continued to add barricades to create a divide between fence-jumpers and the parade itself, but eventually the crowd overtook the route, and officials with the Office of Emergency Management and Communications re-directed about 50 floats off the scheduled route, south on Clark toward Diversey.
After the dust settled in 2011, Pfeiffer told the Windy City Times that the parade had tripled the number of marshals leading up to 2011 and had "produced 120 marshals for this year's event." But Pfeiffer had assured the city that there would be 135 marshals that year to "urge spectators to stay behind the barricades" and to pace the parade. And those 120 marshals didn't appear to be enough, according to the Times:
One police sergeant, who wished to remain anonymous, said that where she was, there were no parade marshals or officials directing floats as they entered the parade.
Despite the crowding and safety concerns in 2011, the parade inexplicably slashed the number of parade marshals it promised in 2012 to "at least 60."  And only 60 marshals were promised again as the parade continued to grow in 2013. Information on the parade's 2014 marshaling plan was not provided to us.

The number of parade monitors—responsible for keeping parade entries moving and orderly—has also been reduced since 2011, according to Pfeiffer's letters to the city. After promising "at least six hundred fifty monitors" in 2011, the number of monitors promised has been reduced to 450.

Pfeiffer did not responded to an email last week in which we sought more information about the apparent reduction in resources.

"Losing It"

Organizers and the city responded to 2011's crushing crowds by changing the route in 2012, hoping that spectators would spread out.
"We are asking people to come to the beginning of the route [in Uptown]" said parade coordinator Richard Pfeiffer. "Halsted will be busy with the bars. Come to the first few blocks."
That has not happened as, predictably, people want to watch the parade in Boystown.

During the 2013 parade, observers in a Chicago police helicopter repeatedly warned resources on the ground that overwhelming crowds were about to break through the barricades at Addison and Halsted.

"It's bulging out. You might be losing it," the airborne officer said in a recording secured by CWB. The helicopter went on to warn of more potentially dangerous overcrowding along barricades at Roscoe and Halsted.

Ultimately, the police lines held.

The overhead cops became concerned about Boystown crowds last year, too:

"You got a problem at Halsted and Aldine. They're coming in off the side streets," the pilot says in audio reviewed by CWB "You got at least 100 people smashed in that area and they're still coming."

That crowd eventually swelled and crushed a Chicago police squad car. "Every [CTA] train brings another 100 people" to the Belmont station, the helicopter crew reported.

Thirty minutes later, CTA closed the Belmont terminal by police order—for the fourth year in a row.

What Can Ya Do?

Sources within Chicago's emergency services who've spoken with us about the parade are hardly surprised by the decision to ignore pleas to move the parade.

"What can ya do?" one source shrugged. "We can only do so much."
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36 comments:

  1. Close the Belmont stop for the entire weekend. I had no idea they closed it in the past.

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    1. that is a good idea

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  2. It's become a joke, and lost all of its original intent. Just lock up (good and tight) and leave town for the weekend. 19 is the over/under for arrests (just set this morning by expert oddsmakers).

    I'm taking the over.....

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    1. If that's the o/u, the over would be a safer bet than the city going an entire year without a murder.

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  3. A few paranoid rantings:
    1) "Terrorism" is a bullshit excuse. If they're worried about something bad happening, it'll be a lot worse in an enclosed tight space.
    2) Part of the Pride Parade's propaganda is that it draws "a million" people, which isn't anywhere near the case. If it gets moved downtown, you'll see merely 100,000 people - which is still a hell of a lot. Moving would disrupt the narrative. And that means $$$.
    3) Tunney doesn't want it to move. And since he's a whiny Alderman, he'll get his way. That guy is a first class weasel.
    4) It's only a matter of time before someone dies at the parade, and after the last few years, I'm surprised it hasn't happened. Based on experience and pictures, if someone has a legit medical emergency, it's going to take serious time for first responders to get onscene.

    And finally, I want to preemptively thank CPD and CFD for their hard work this 2015 Pride Weekend. It'll be a shitshow for sure, but we appreciate that you have to put up with this and the idiot drunks it attracts.

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    1. "Tunney doesn't want it to move. And since he's a whiny Alderman, he'll get his way. That guy is a first class weasel. "

      That is SO unfair to weasels.

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  4. Does anyone have any insight into the finances of this event? Do parade float entries pay some kind of fee to participate? What is the money spent on, besides writing a check to Streets and San? Do organizers pay for any private security or hire any off-duty police officers?

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    1. Oh please! Everyone knows the $$$ after bills are paid goes deeeeeeep into the pockets of the parade owner, Dick Pefifer. There is absolutely no accountability on this parade, no figures given to the public, nothing, nada.

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  5. the police wont do anything.. as usual... please just stay away from HELLMONT for your own safety. halsted wont be much safer. this great event has gotten so unsafe.... sad

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    1. What am I suppose to do. we will have 300 to 500 police officers working this event, there will be 50,000 drunken clowns there (fighting pissing damaging things). Plus we also have the entire rest of the district you all forget about. Hey guess what stop the parade, go out of town or be responsible for your safety. I DONT WANT TO BE THERE EITHER!!!!!!!

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  6. You don't say no to the Gay Mafia, they will go out of their way to destroy anyone who does. Even a tragedy at the event won't stop them from keeping it there.

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  7. It was real smart to stop the parade from going down broadway (sarcasm) I lived on hawthorne and every year we could just chill out and watch the parade...Now its damn scary.. Did they really expect people to wanna go up to Buena Park and Uptown to watch the parade? Everyone comes in either at the Addison or Belmont stop

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    1. I watched the parade last year near the Target store on Broadway between Sunnyside and Montrose. No problems there. In fact, it was pretty enjoyable.

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  8. This is one of my favorite neighborhood events, seems to me it's really wrong to move this downtown eventually. If congestion etc. are issues wouldn't it make more sense to start it farther north on Broadway, maybe fork it into 2 parades down Halsted & Broadway?

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    1. ^^^ truly clueless...on so many levels ^^^

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    2. Better yet, start it in Uptown and head north into Andersonville/Edgewater.

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    3. Fork it? How about putting a fork ~in~ it? There is nothing you can do to make people watch the parade where the perceived fun is not located. Just a few years ago, the parade did go up Halsted and down Broadway. The crowds on Broadway were a tiny fraction of Halsted's crowds and the streets are only a block or two apart

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    4. The Very Rev Flavel 2Apr 23, 2015, 10:55:00 AM

      Better yet, start the parade at Montrose/Broadway. Let it work south to Addison. At Addison, the straight components and money-grubbing business floats can turn right and go to Wrigley and disband there along the bro bars along Clark. The gay MALE components can continue south on Halsted and disband at Steamworks, which is many of them will end up anyway later in the day or evening. Lastly, the politicans and their floats can turn left at Addison and continue until they reach a large body of water known as Lake Michigan. They can proceed into the large body of water, and, actually I don't really care what happens after that. Logistic and EMS and other issues solved!

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    5. 'rocks', I pray you're really not as stupid as you sound.

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  9. The North Side of Chicago is not designed like the South Side with wide boulevards. In the past when I used to attend the parade with out of town friends when it was less violent, but no less with rude and drunk people, my visiting friends would see the street for the parade and gasp at how ridiculous to try to squeeze floats and people down streets that are barely two-way. It's a joke. All around. Chicago has seen better days, that's for sure. Minneapolis is more sophisticated, and that's not saying a whole lot.

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  10. It's common for bars and entertainment venues to urge crime reporting related to their establshments be addressed differently than the actual business. Some combination of city code, PR, and friendly relationships with authorities enable this misallocation. Has anyone studied the variance in immediate surrounding areas of the parade? Or is the event somewhat shielded by not having an address that can be implicated in relation to specific crimes? I suppose the RAP process also fails to capture incidents in these extreme cases. My proposal would be to advocate for a ratio driven requirement for events of this nature - it takes x police to cover y area with z people. Now take the current population and area effected by the event and require the organizers to fund the delta in police resources.

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  11. Yesterday I informed my friends in the burbs that they could expect to see me in their spare bedroom that Saturday afternoon thru Monday morning.

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  12. Okay I am never a caps lock shouter but I think this solution is so common sense I'll indulge for just this once:

    FENCE OFF THE AREA AND SELL TICKETS!!!!

    You can set a controlled quota for the number of people in coordination with safety department.

    The revenue pays for the crowd control & damage to the neighborhood.

    If you're concerned about it becoming an event "for the rich" then set aside a % of the tickets to be a free or reduced price lottery.

    Plenty of other major events operate this way. TBOX is still out of control, but this is basically how they managed to get it from mind-bending-chaos to "well it's better than it was last year". They set a lower ticket quota.

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    1. Great idea, plow all the fees into security. Better for all except azzhole kids.

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  13. Here's my take on the social collapse of Chicago's gay pride parade. I'm unsure if other cities suffer the same disgraces during pride weekend, but I'm going to speak in general terms as if what one sees in Chicago is a problem elsewhere. The gay community has a whole has lost it's identity. We've become a tool of politics and social struggle. We're the "new proletariat" that has lost all creativity that once blossomed from the gay world like spring flowers after a rainstorm. We're now artless, trashy, brainless foot soldiers for a particular ruling class, and nothing shows that more abundantly than during pride weekend. Where are you Quentin Crisp??

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    1. That pretty much sums up Chicago the City as a whole.

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  14. And this sums up how much the business owners that live in Lincoln Park care about the neighborhood and neighbors safety and property:

    Boystown business owners and community leaders have argued that the parade is vital to the neighborhood from a cultural and social perspective.

    "If we were to move the parade out of that community, we would lose a lot more than some beer that wouldn't be sold," Sidetrack owner and co-founder of Equality Illinois Art Johnston said last June.

    What more would you lose Art? Your status? It's all about $$$ in your pocket just admit it. You love to use Equality IL to go after people that disagree with you. Like you boycott of Russian Vodka. Tunney is in your pocket.

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    1. Ease up. Their glory days are numbered and they know it.

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    2. Rumor is Side Track is for sale.

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    3. Well I'm sure if Sidetrack is for sale, Stu Zurin will snap it up, since his apparent goal is to own every business in the 3200. 3300, and 3400 blocks of N. Halsted.

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    4. They have an unrealistic price on it for a has been club and gayborhood. They should have sold prior to 2009. Now the Parade will be leaving next year. Maybe they should cared and been more vocal about the crime here.

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  15. I volunteered at San Francisco Pride for five years when I lived in the Bay Area. We had a team of six safety monitors at each intersection on the parade route, and teams of safety monitors working the celebration area. After the parade, if parade monitors felt up to it, they were invited to join the teams working the celebration area. I think we had 200+ safety monitors.

    Celebration area was sixteen square blocks PACKED with people. Medical teams evacuating people had a team of safety monitors in front of the cart forming a V to get the cart to the perimeter, and to a waiting ambulance. Loud, but fun!

    Best way to see SF Pride Parade is to be a safety volunteer!

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  16. A couple of years ago NYC pride parade was the same weekend as ours....We took a weekend trip and their parade was so much safer.....Even going into the Village after the parade....There were so many foot patrol cops around, like 30 to 50 each block ....I realize it is a much bigger city but its not like Chicago can not plan for our pride parade....But thankfully i will be moving to SF before this years pride

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  17. Keep the Parade off of Halsted entirely and only on Broadway and Diversey

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  18. One Alderman says no to a problem event.

    http://chicago.suntimes.com/chicago-politics/7/71/565423/riot-fest-fires-back-alderman-wants-fest-evicted-humboldt-park

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