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Could Crowd Problems Lead To Route Change For Pride Parade?

Could Parade Route End Up Changing?
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Pride Parade Crowd

The crowd at the 2011 Chicago Gay Pride Parade. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Reports say an estimated 750,000 people descended on the Boystown neighborhood for the Gay Pride Parade this past weekend, but with the record crowd came reports of major crowd-control problems and even discussion of changing the route.

The Windy City Times and ChicagoPride.com reported about 750,000 people attended the parade, a figure they said likely exceeded past records.

The crowd swelled to the point that police had to stop the parade briefly so that a swarm of people could cross Halsted Street at Belmont Avenue and reduce congestion, the Windy City Times reported.

Afterward, the parade resumed, but about 40 parade participants had to be diverted south on Clark Street at the intersection with Halsted Street and Barry Avenue, ChicagoPride.com reported. Clark Street is not part of the parade route, and the entries – among them the 103.5 KISS FM, PAWS Chicago, and the Old Town School Folk Music – did not get to participate in the parade at all, the Web site reported.

Clark Street was also open to regular traffic the whole time, and passing through the intersection of Clark, Broadway and Diversey Parkway toward the end of the parade was a challenge for pedestrians.

Farther north, the crowds reportedly swelled to the point of danger. The Windy City Times reported many people had to get out from behind barricades because due to lack of space, and some packed spectators scaled an eight-foot chain link fence among Halsted Street.

Fighting was also reported at Belmont Avenue and Halsted Street, and the Windy City Times showed a photograph of a damaged car with a shattered windshield that reportedly had been danced on by parade spectators on Belmont.

Parade organizer Rich Pfeiffer told the Windy City Times that alternate routes might have to be discussed.

This is not the first time someone has suggested changing or shortening the parade route. Last year, Gay Chicago Magazine reported one neighbor, Doug Ochab, called for limiting the parade only to Halsted Street and charging admission fees for spectators.

But area businesses have resisted any suggestion to eliminate Halsted or Broadway – or Diversey – from the route, noting the boost for business the parade provides, reports say.

The Windy City Times also points out that since the first weekend of the Taste of Chicago always coincides with the Pride Parade, moving it to Columbus Drive in Grant Park like many other city parades is not an option.

Moving the parade up a week could make a downtown move feasible, but Pride Parades have often lost support when they’ve been moved out of largely gay neighborhoods, the Windy City Times reported.

Besides that, holding the parade a week earlier would make it interfere with Father’s Day, and would remove it from synchronicity from the other pride parades across the country, which are intended to commemorate the Stonewall uprising in New York on June 28, 1969.

The crowd control issues followed a major disappointment before the parade, which many believe amounted to a hate crime. Late Saturday night or early Sunday morning, two tires on 51 parade floats were slashed in the warehouse for Associated Attractions Enterprises Inc., a parade float business at 4834 S. Halsted St.

Organizers scrambled to replace as many tires as possible in time for the parade, but three floats couldn’t be repaired in time.

Police are investigating the incident as one of criminal damage to property, but Pfeiffer and Associated Attractions owner Chuck Huser told WBBM 780 and CBS 2 they believe the act was motivated by hate.

The first Gay Pride Parade was actually a protest march from Bughouse Square at Dearborn and Walton streets to what is now the Daley Center, on June 27, 1970. The parade has been held in the East Lakeview area every year since, and has followed the same route for many years – north on Halsted, south on Broadway and east on Diversey.

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