Chicago's annual 2012 Gay Pride Parade will have a different route this year, after months of back and forth with parade organizers, city officials and community groups.
The parade, which will be held on Sunday, June 24, has grown annually, with over 800,000 attendees last year. The growth has made handling the auto and pedestrian traffic an arduous task for the city and organizers. Last year, crowds were difficult to disperse and streets took longer than usual to clean and open up to traffic.
The parade traditionally circled from north Halsted Street, then headed south on Broadway Street. Now, the route is reversed, and with a start as far north as Montrose Avenue.
Also, there will be pedestrian crossings at key points. Previous parades saw barricades that would at times encompass the parade route, making it difficult for residents to leave parts of Boystown without walking several blocks through a crowd of thousands.
"We're hoping to eliminate what we called "pride island," said Max Bever, director of communication for Ald. Tom Tunney (44th). Bever was referring to the area of the old parade route where residents bound between Halsted, Broadway and Belmont would be trapped upwards of eight hours. He said there were concerns for access of emergency vehicles and the quality of life for those residents.
Last October, initial plans called for an earlier start time of 10 a.m., 2 hours earlier than its usual noon start time. The move by Ald. Tunney and parade organizer Richard Pfeiffer was meant to curb drinking, which when compounded with the large crowds, led to incidents of public intoxication, vandalism and other disturbances.
The obvious, but unsaid effect of the parade's popularity and growing tolerance of gays: Both gay and straight Chicagoans have united on the front of celebratory drinking—en masse.
Bever said the new route would help police clamp down on open container violations and public drinking.
The plan for an earlier start time was scrapped after resistance from Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, a Catholic church along the parade route. Long a supporting element of the neighborhood's gay community, the church took issue with the earlier time, with one priest, Rev. Thomas Sreen saying: "the change in route and the time brought it right in the heart of our sacred time."
Last December, the consternation grew to such an extent that Cardinal Francis George issued a very public mea culpa for making a comparison of the gay community's objections to that of the Ku Klux Klan, saying: " You know, you don’t want the Gay Liberation Movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism.”
Cardinal George apologized for the comments, but not after leaving many hurt—and with some calling for his resignation.
Street closures and bus reroutes are expected at the time of the parade. Parking along the parade route will be prohibited, with towing starting at 5 a.m.