Today was the annual Gay Pride Day Parade in Chicago. Attendance was down; it was an hour shorter by my estimate; the floats and groups never seemed to pause as they had in years past-- possibly reflecting security concerns; and the politicians flocked by even though they have nothing to be proud about. As the Gay community has become more mainstream, the parade has become more corporate and much of the outlandishness has receded with the hairlines of parade participants. Imagine seeing Boeing, Northrup Grumman, Aon, or KMPG at a Gay rights parade in 1969, but then, times have changed since Stonewall.
This year security was tight, with helicopters flying over the neighborhood beginning yesterday. Extra police and private security forces were enlisted--the Orlando shootings cast their long shadow on the parade.
Overall, I am not a fan of Chicago parades. The floats are ugly, there are two many buses and trollies transporting participants, and lots of participants are pretty schlubby. Yet, the organizers did this a nice job this year for the kickoff "float." Following the police, who always are first, was a group of individuals walking, each carrying a large sign picturing someone who had been shot in Orlando. A nice reminder of the core issues that give the parade its purpose.
As usual, I ended up in front of the religious protesters, who the police put behind barricades on Diversey Parkway (some may see the irony in that location) toward the end of the parade. It is always interesting watching the interaction between the protesters and the crowd. Like 'em or not, the protesters are masters at inciting a response from the crowd, particularly the youthful members who have been drinking. In years past, when the kids got carried away when responding to the protesters, several people literally get carried a way by the police. This year, at least according to one police officer, there were no arrests.
I have gotten to know one of the protesters over the years. He was back this year, and we had a nice conversation. He asked me not to use his name because he has received death threats. He was particularly concerned about the safety of his children, so like all of us, he is a human being. This year I asked him why he bothers because he isn't going to change anything. He acknowledged that, but said that unless he and the others act, God will destroy the civilization sooner (if I heard him correctly). I respect his convictions and his First Amendment right to speak them, but I remain uncomfortable with his level of certainty. In any event, I was glad to hear that he views Chicago as a First Amendment friendly city when it comes to his beliefs.
Copyright 2016, Jack B. Siegel. All Rights Reserved