Riot Fest had some serious clout in its fight with that hospital | WBEZ
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Jim DeRogatis

Riot Fest had some serious clout in its fight with that hospital

Riot Fest in 2013. (Flickr/swimfinfan)
With St. Anthony Hospital dropping its much-publicized last-minute lawsuit to block Riot Fest from Douglas Park—here’s the news in the Trib and here’s the story in the Sun-Times—the tale might seem once again to be one of the man trying to stop the music, but the underdog somehow prevailing so the party can go on.

At least Riot Fest organizers did a good job of spinning the tale in recent days as one of the big, bad (healthcare) corporation trying to shake down the little punk-rock concert, which already is in a new home after Humboldt Park turned on it following 2014’s event. But the concert promoters were not without some very high-powered help in their fight.

On Monday afternoon, Riot Fest issued a press release that seemed to bolster its case that it was being fleeced by the hospital by including two emails from attorneys for St. Anthony to members of Team Riot Fest. Two of the names for the latter jump out if one follows Chicago politics.

Music industry veteran Heather West has been the concert’s longtime publicist, and she remains in that role. But promoters brought in a second, self-described “spokesperson”—though I did not catch any appearance by her in the media—to handle public affairs commentary. That woman, Chris Mather, served as communications director for Mayor Rahm Emanuel until leaving the administration in 2012 to open a Chicago office for Purple Strategies, which Crain’s describes as “a bipartisan, Washington-based public affairs group.”

Riot Fest’s lawyer also has close ties to the Emanuel administration: Homero Tristan, who led the fight against the hospital, was forced to resign as personnel chief in a scandal during the last administration. But he has been a key cheerleader and fundraiser for Emanuel in the Latino community in recent years, as the Sun-Times has reported.

In other words, Riot Fest clouted up big-time with two pals of the mayor in this fight, making it a little harder to buy the concert as the beleaguered “little guy.” Though, of course, it's all in keeping with business as usual in Chicago.

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