Vandals slash tires on Gay Pride Parade floats

June 26, 2011

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(Courtesy of Michael Hari Photography)
Participants in Chicago's Gay Pride Parade Sunday.
(WBEZ/Jennifer Brandel)
The PAWS Chicago float was among those vandalized. The group is the largest no-kill animal shelter in Chicago.
(WBEZ/Jennifer Brandel)
Those who were participating without a float in the parade had nothing to worry about.
(WBEZ/Jennifer Brandel)
Gay pride supporters said the vandalization of the floats was an affront to human decency.

Gay pride supporters are recovering after tires were slashed on 51 of the 70 or so pride parade floats on Sunday. The majority of floats were being kept in a South Side warehouse that had no overnight security or cameras. And of the floats kept in that warehouse, all had their tires slashed. 

Warehouse general manager Chuck Huser said each float had two tires slashed and there were no signs of what group or individuals were to blame. At 6am, Huser said he was lucky to find an auto garage that was open and able to sell him $4,000 worth of tires. He then recruited extra help for changing them out and getting the floats out the door. 

But three hours after the parade started, Steven Sondheimer was still waiting for his float to arrive. He’s with the Chicago Housing Authority and their float was among those vandalized. Of the crime Sondheimer said, "It wasn’t about the CHA – it was about the LGBT community at large. And I think it was a hate crime."   

Sondheimer said the vandalism did dampen his spirits some, but he said "I think this will mobilize us to realize there's still homophobia in our communities - all across Chicago and all across America." 

Still, the parade marched on as the floats arrived as quickly as was possible. All but three did not make it out of the warehouse, and a few others may not have made it into the parade. Huser said he had to hand it to the parade participants, because of the 230 or so phone calls he fielded on Sunday morning, "everyone was very understanding." 

Mary Jane Jarvis is with the PAWS Chicago float and their tires were also slashed. Their float made it back in time to get into the parade. She said, "You know what, in a way it showed us that we can overcome it. You can’t stop the Chicago pride parade!”