With Lakeview residents pressuring Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) and James Cappleman (46th) to move the annual Chicago Pride Parade to a downtown location, members of activist group Uptown Uprising have begun a petition to keep the event in Lakeview and its Boystown enclave.
Tunney announced in comments after the parade that he’s open to moving the annual street festival to a location in downtown Chicago—like Columbus Dr. or Michigan Ave. Proponents of the move are circulating a petition begun by former Human Rights Campaign organizer Curtis Bumgarner-Cookson.
Bumgarner-Cookson told Chicago Phoenix after the Sunday event, “Now that Chicago’s parade attracts over a million people, it only makes sense that Boystown no longer can contain it. Michigan Ave. or Columbus Dr. would be better venue choices as they give the LGBT community more exposure, and are more centrally located and accessible.”
But not everyone is in agreement.
Sidetrack owner Art Johnston told Windy City Times that moving the parade would doom it, calling such a move as possibly “the end of the parade.” He told the legacy newspaper that the parade is important to the heritage and life of Boystown.
With residents pushing Tunney—who is seeking re-election—and shouts in favor of a venue change, Uptown Uprising has stepped forward to defend Boystown as the proper location for the parade. A petition to keep the parade where it currently is was begun by activist Ryne Poelker.
Poelker explained to Chicago Phoenix, “The parade should stay where it was founded—in the gayborhoods. If [the density of its viewing participants] is an issue, then expand it to Andersonville. The parade generates much to local economies and employment. Despite the loud complainers, many other residents, including myself, like being able to walk to the parade route. [Removing it from the gayborhoods] would be a loss to both businesses and community residents who enjoy where it is.”
The Uptown Uprising petition goes further by charging that there are unsaid motivators behind the calls to move the parade. Poelker says resident complaints of more noise, more vice, and more mess from the parade are just excuses to protect the expectations of a neighborhood made up of the economically-privileged.
“I see the complaints to move the parade as part of a larger trend to suburbanize Lakeview,” he says. “As someone who has been attacked in Lakeview last year, I understand the concern to lower crime. However, the approach that some residents have taken has been unhealthy, ineffective and resembles a paranoid white suburb.”
Poelker has called out these residents as NIMBYs, which stands for “Not In My Backyard”—people who would attempt to exorcise the problems of the community by kicking certain people out, like parade participants.
“Rather than address crime at the roots, like advocating for a higher minimum wage, or re-opening Chicago’s mental health clinics, residents just want to keep kicking the problem down the road with a short-term fix, pushing things into someone else’s backyard,” Poelker said. “[Residents in these gentrified communities and blogs that support them] have attacked services, SROs, shelters and even church food pantries over the years. Now they’re after the Pride parade. It has gotten to the point where I see them as a force of economic violence rather than safety.”