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Post-Pride Parade Event on Halsted Proposed To Keep Troublemakers Out

By Ariel Cheung | July 2, 2015 8:40am
 Belmont Avenue is bathed in blue light from police cruisers near the Belmont Red Line station around midnight after the 2015 Chicago Pride Parade.
Belmont Avenue is bathed in blue light from police cruisers near the Belmont Red Line station around midnight after the 2015 Chicago Pride Parade.
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DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung

LAKEVIEW — While regrouping from last weekend's Pride Parade, officials are considering adding a staging area on Halsted Street for next year's fest to keep Pride attendees in and troublemakers out.

The idea of gating off the Northalsted strip for a permitted event was floated too late for the 2015 parade, but neighbors voiced support for it during a Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy meeting Wednesday at the Town Hall District, 850 W. Addison St.

The monthly CAPS meeting provided a sounding board for neighbors just three days after Sunday's parade, during which hundreds of thousands of attendees swarmed 21 blocks and cheered on 200 participating groups and floats.

Police said they discussed creating an event to block off the streets after the parade and take donations for entry, but, "at the time, it was too late to actually have a permitted event and shut down Halsted," said Capt. Bill Looney.

The staging area could be used to streamline entrance to the festivities, acting as a sort of checkpoint for the throngs that flood the streets of Lakeview after the parade. Alternately, officials considered using the Northalsted strip to stage an "after party" that would concentrate post-parade activity, which in previous years has bled into residential sections of the neighborhood.

City officials and local leaders met several times to plan critical improvements for Sunday's parade, but delayed announcing its location until after the April 7 runoff election, in which both Ald. James Cappleman (46th) and Mayor Rahm Emanuel defeated challengers. There has been talk of moving the parade Downtown to shift the large crowds away from Lakeview's residential streets.

Business owners and chamber directors deemed the parade a success, crediting police with doing a "tremendous job" of controlling crowds and maintaining order. 

In East Lakeview, 98 surveyed business owners said the day was "overwhelmingly successful," said Maureen Martino, executive director of the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce.

But the packed room largely agreed that those arriving in Lakeview in the evening following the parade were not the cheering families and boisterous Boystown residents who attended the parade.

Several people said the turnover was especially noticeable in parade and post-parade crowds in a 24-hour time lapse video shot by Triangle Neighbors resident Rob Sall. Neighbors said the nighttime revelers were rowdier and "different" from the daytime crowd.

While the meeting mostly praised the weekend's police work, residents were still concerned that large, alcohol-fueled crowds in the streets were a safety threat no matter how many police officers were on hand.

"What I saw on Halsted between 10 and 11 Sunday [night] was nothing short of riot conditions. There was no control. Police had lost control of the entire street," one neighbor said.

Capt. Bill Looney disagreed.

"They were acting pretty strong until we had enough people. We waited until we had enough resources, and then we cleared the streets. Once we did, the crowd left. I would say (they) were largely receptive toward us," Looney said.

One alternative that was considered too late for 2015 would be to block off entry to Halsted Street, while still allowing people to exit after the parade — similar to the tactic used to empty Clark Street after the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup June 15, setting off celebrations in Wrigleyville that lasted into early morning hours.

But one lesson the Town Hall District learned during Blackhawks revelry was "these people have to go somewhere. If we move them south, then the south side [of Lakeview] has a lot more people," Looney said.

Late Sunday, a large police line pushed crowds south on Halsted, with groups then congregating west on Belmont Avenue near the Red Line 'L' station. Despite that, "as someone who has been on Belmont the last number of years, this was the best I've seen," said Ald. Tom Tunney (44th).

Police were able to successfully herd the masses by gauging the crowd's mood and waiting until enough officers were available to effectively move people away from an overcrowded area, Looney said. Around 1 a.m., bars closed their doors for a short period, denying entry while police cleared the streets.

Part of the effort to calm post-parade mayhem included a zero-tolerance alcohol policy, with alcohol checkpoints and officers on the look-out for coolers and open containers.

"I think the majority of people got the message about the fine for open liquor, so the amount during the parade was less than what it had been in previous years. At the end of the day, my ward superintendent said cleaning was a lot easier than in years past," Tunney said.

Police did have one suggestion for business owners to help prevent crowding in front of their establishments: close the windows.

"Be proactive — that's the one thing I think fell short where I think these taverns shouldn't have waited for us. Why does it take me and other officers at 9 o'clock to tell them to close windows?" said Sgt. Jason Clark.

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