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400,000 at Pride, Anti-Gays Spark Protests, Arrests
by Tracy Baim
2004-06-30

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Click on the following link for a gallery of Pride photos by Tracy Baim and Kirk Williamson

www.windycitymediagroup.com/images/publications/wct/2004-06-30/ParadebyKirkandTracy/index.htm

Pictured above First three: ACLU, Charlies and Chicago Pride. Deborah Mell sends a message to her brother-in-law, Gov. Rod Blagojevich, during the 35th annual Pride Parade last Sunday in Chicago. More than 400,000 people watched or marched in the event. See many more photos at the link at the top of the page.

Under gorgeous skies—again—the city's gay and lesbian Pride Parade attracted an estimated 400,000 GLBTs and straight allies Sunday, jamming the streets of Lakeview for the 35th annual event.

But the parade was made ugly by the annual presence of anti-gay forces, usually numbering about a dozen, with huge signs proclaiming their version of a hateful God.

This year, the anti-gays came with a twist—a Republican congressional candidate seeking to unseat incumbent Rep. Luis Gutierrez. Anthony Cisneros had attempted to register late for the parade.

PRIDEChicago Coordinator Richard Pfeiffer told Windy City Times Monday that Cisneros told him he was pro-gay, and Pfeiffer told Cisneros last week he could enter the parade even though he was late. However, Cisneros was still required to complete an application and he was told it could be just him and a couple of staff members—not a group. Cisneros never completed the paperwork and instead just showed up at the parade with about a dozen anti-gays carrying signs.

Pfeiffer told police that Cisneros was not properly registered and therefore would not be allowed in. Pfeiffer also noted that ever since the Supreme Court ruled that a gay contingent could be blocked from a St. Pat's Parade, gay parades have tried to eliminate anti-gay contingents.

Pfeiffer, normally a mild-mannered activist, was outraged that Cisneros tried to push his way in. Police asked him if he was willing to press for Cisneros' arrest if he tried to enter the parade, and Pfeiffer said he would, so the anti-gays stayed on the sidelines.

The parade kicked off on time, with the lead car occupied by former National Football League star Esera Tuaolo. He was followed by dozens of political contingents—most with just supporters, not candidates, because many, including state Sen. Barack Obama, were in Springfield at Gov. Rod Blagojevich's emergency budget session. U.S. Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Rahm Emmanuel were among those shaking hands with the swelling crowds along Halsted and Broadway.

A group of anarchists were also expected to cause trouble, according to organizers, and police had warned that the un-permitted group would be entering the parade. But the Equal Marriage NOW! group reportedly allowed the anti-racist contingent to join on their registration number, and there were no concerns by organizers at that point.

But when the contingent came across the anti-gays, strong words were exchanged, and a fight broke out. In a 'he said/he said' battle, witnesses will be needed to sort out the altercation. But in the end, police arrested not the provocateurs, but the pro-gay forces.

Those arrested allegedly assaulted police during the fight. Jeremy Hammond, 19, Neal Rysdahl, 51, and Robert Bernstein, 17, were arrested at 12:20 p.m. near Clark and Halsted. They were charged with one count each of resisting arrest for struggling when handcuffs were being applied, aggravated battery to a police officer and reckless conduct. The charges are felonies, except reckless conduct, which is a misdemeanor. The three men are scheduled to appear in North Felony Court July 6.

'We find this invasion by Fred Phelps-type activists as offensive as if a Klan or Nazi group burst into the Bud Billikin Day [African-American] parade,' said Bob Schwartz of the Chicago Anti-Bashing Network, a witness to the incident. 'We find it outrageous that Chicago police would arrest those who protested this invasion, rather than the invaders themselves.'

Another witness, Marsha Markko, said she saw the anti-gays first push the pro-gays. She was marching with the family of murdered gay man Kevin Clewer. When Markko asked the anti-gays to have respect for Clewer's family, she said one shouted 'He wouldn't have been murdered if he hadn't been gay.'

_____ There were 237 entries in the 2004 parade, including floats, decorated vehicles and walking groups.

This year's parade was more colorful, organizers said in announcing the parade award winners:

Best All Around Float: Sidetrack.

Best Organization (two winners): SGI-USA and SANGAT Chicago.

Best Business Float (two winners): Berlin and Starbucks.

Special Parade Award: Ketty & Paul Enterprises.

Special Parade Award: FOLIABRAZIL.

Best Float Using Theme: Sound Bar (combined international theme Vive la Difference with wedding cake motif).

PRIDEChicago was just informed that ABC 7 Chicago will be re-broadcasting the Pride Parade for a second time, Sunday, July 11 at 11:35 p.m.


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