After police shut off music and canceled stage performances, Pride at Montrose cleared out very quickly. [Instagram]
UPTOWN — After the police shutdown of Pride at Montrose, Ald. James Cappleman (46th) said he is "extremely disappointed" that a discrepancy over the height of a fence could not have been worked out between event organizers and the Chicago Police Department.
Pride at Montrose is considered the kickoff to Black Pride, and features a variety of free performances and DJ sets geared toward people of color. For the first year, event organizers partnered with AIDS Foundation of Chicago to provide free HIV testing and meningitis vaccinations for a population disproportionately affected by the diseases. But it was cut short when police killed the music before the Pride Parade even ended Sunday around 1 p.m.
In a statement to DNAinfo, Cappleman said his office worked with police, the Chicago Park District and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago to make sure the event went smoothly, so he was surprised when he heard on social media that it was canceled.
"Per the commanding officer overseeing this event, the agreed-upon plan for the fencing was not followed, and he assessed that proceeding with the music portion of this event could affect the safety of the attendees," Cappleman said. "Nevertheless, I’m extremely disappointed that the issues could not have been worked out, especially given how important it is to provide HIV testing to those who may not ever seek testing on their own with a medical provider."
Cappleman said the event was "especially important because it brings together many members of the African-American community to celebrate together what it means to be a member of the LGBTQ community, especially given the many barriers they often face."
Organizers from the AIDS Foundation of Chicago echoed Cappleman's disappointment, but owned up to the fencing mistake.
"I'm not sure where we messed up the height, but we did, and we take responsibility for it," said AIDS Foundation President John Peller.
In a statement, the group said it wished police had been more flexible and worked with organizers to "find a plausible and immediate solution."
"Though we acknowledge the event did not have the 6-foot fence as described in the security plan, throughout the day, we made changes in an attempt to address the concern. These changes, unfortunately, were viewed as an unacceptable alternative by the Chicago Police Department," the foundation said.
The fences were supposed to be 6 feet high, but were 4 feet, similar to those used around the Pride parade, event organizers said.
All live events such as Pride at Montrose require permits, which include a safety plan signed off on by the district commander and the alderman. In this case, the fence used was "not what the event called for," said Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.
Organizers were asked to shut down the musical portion of the event, but not the entire event, Guglielmi said.
Without the musical performances, the event didn't garner the same crowds, organizers said.
After police shut off music and canceled stage performances, Pride at Montrose cleared out very quickly. [Screenshot/Facebook]
The AIDS Foundation could not immediately assess the financial toll of canceling remaining performances, adding the "bills haven't come yet."
The cancellation was "incredibly unfortunate" because the historic LGBTQ event was an opportunity to celebrate Pride and provide health care resources in honor of National HIV Testing Day. Last year, the foundation was able to administer hundreds of free HIV tests at the event, Peller said.
The height of the fences seemed like a "bizarre request" since the Pride Parade attracts millions of people and uses fences similar to the ones organizers used, said Erik Glenn, executive director of the Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus. He also said it was interesting that police created an "unnecessary conflict between the city's law enforcement and public health department."
"It feels curious that this is enough rationale to shut it down," he said, adding that the presence of music makes the event more safe. "What we know as organizers is when you have large gatherings of people with nothing to do, bad things happen. ... We are giving people some fun things to do to occupy [their] time."
Before the event was even set up, police parked in the parking lot for the event, making it difficult for organizers to bring in supplies and set up, Glenn said. Officers then lingered around the event creating "a suspicious climate," he said.
In a statement, Cappleman stressed that he was not letting the issue go without getting answers.
"Uptown is a very open and welcoming community, and it’s especially important that attendees of Pride at Montrose feel welcomed to Uptown," Cappelman said in an email Monday. "I want to make sure we get to the bottom of this communication breakdown so that we can move forward and have many more Pride at Montrose events for years to come."
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