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Chicago Equality Rally part of Midsommarfest
by Liz Baudler

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On June 10, a soggy atmosphere could not dampen the spirits of the crowd at Andersonville's annual Midsommarfest, held along Clark Street between Foster and Catalpa on June 8-10. Among many musical and cultural acts, Chicago Spirit Brigade and Lakeside Pride's Latin Ensemble delighted the crowd throughout the weekend.

The rain did not dilute the rhetoric of the Equality Rally speakers at the festival's Balmoral Stage. Saying this was the second year of this kind of Rally at the Fest, state Rep. Kelly Cassidy welcomed a small, determined audience under umbrellas before handing the microphone off to Sara Dinges from the Andersonville Chamber of Commerce, who called her neighborhood, "a safe, equal place for everyone."

Ald. Patrick O'Connor ( 40th Ward ) also commented on safety, saying "Andersonville was the safest neighborhood in Chicago, and "Inclement weather is the least of the problems that we face when we push for civil rights, human rights, and equal rights."

Ald. Harry Osterman ( 48th ) talked about sharing Clark Street with O'Connor and helping to support local businesses, and thanked Dingus for the Chamber's hard work.

"Andersonville is an incredibly diverse and welcoming community," Osterman said, adding that it was a a great example for kids who grow up in the neighborhood. "And it remains that way, for the LGBT community, for the immigrant community. We are an example for the entire city, state and country for what it means to be unified, 365 days a year. Especially with our current President, we have to stand together and be an example." He also called Cassidy "a strong voice for women down in Springfield."

LGBTQ Impact's Rick Garcia followed Osterman with what could only be called a fiery message.

"We have the best legislators anywhere in this country," Garcia said of his neighborhood representatives, before touching on immigrant and LGBTQ rights under the Trump administration.

"We will not allow our friends, neighbors and family members to be rounded up, demonized and deported," said Garcia, adding that Andersonville has always welcomed immigrants. He called Trump Cabinet appointees "unqualified" and "ignorant" and "the most vile racist bigots, homophobes and hatemongers."

"We must commit ourselves to standing up, acting up, and resisting any of his xenophobic, homophobic and racist policies being implemented" Garcia said about Trump. "He is determined to turn back the civil rights and protections the LGBTQ community has made."

Garcia then moved on to the mayoral election, reminding the crowd that current mayor Rahm Emanuel was "the architect" of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and advised Presidents Clinton and Obama to sign DOMA and keep quiet about supporting equal marriage rights, respectively. As mayor, Garcia said, Emanuel decimated the Chicago Human Relations Commission, including dissolving minority councils such as the one on gay and lesbian issues. Emanuel also fired his liaison to the LGBTQ community and even defunded the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame.

Garcia's speech took a surprising turn when he endorsed—not Black lesbian mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot standing behind him—but Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown. Garcia highlighted Brown's record of strong support for the LGBTQ community, including working alongside activists to support the Cook County Human Rights ordinance and Illinois' Equal Marriage Act.

"She stood by us and worked for us when people were turning their backs on us, and I proudly stand by her," Garcia said of Brown. "I urge you to look at her record and consider her for Mayor."

He ended with an admonition to vote.

"The LGBTQ Community has worked too hard, made too many gains...and we are not ever going back," Garcia said.

Taking the stage to conclude the rally, Lightfoot—al though she called his activism "fearless"—respectfully disagreed with Garcia.

"I think we have a different choice for mayor next year," Lightfoot stated, and continueed with her trademark slogan of equity and inclusion. "We cannot continue the us-against-them mentality that is the hallmark of the current Administration."

Lightfoot called the upcoming mayoral race "the most important of our history"

"We must unite together and push ourselves on a new Progressive course for our city," she said, touching on improving schools and combating poverty. "We know that we have world-class resources in this city, at neighborhood level, in the academy, in business and philanthropy. What we need and what we are missing is a leader with the courage, conviction and determination to take on the tough choices, roll her sleeves up, bring people together, and unite us going forward. And that's what I will do."

She expressed support for the police officers standing at the rally, acknowledging it is currently "a tough time for law enforcement."

"It's critically important that we find a way to bridge the divide," Lightfoot said. "We're talking about resources and support for our officers. It starts with people coming together and recognizing ourselves as individuals, not titles, not labels ... respecting differences, to be sure, but also recognizing the commonality that links all of us."

She ended by asking Chicagoans to "speak our values" since the national administration would not be supportive of the city's interests.

Lightfoot also took a moment to reflect on the larger meaning of the rally, mentioning LGBTQ youth who fear their parent's rejection over their sexuality, and those LGBTQ youth who are homeless because of that rejection.

"Five years ago, it probably would have been impossible for somebody like me, an openly gay person, to run for one of the most important offices of our city," she said. "And I'm able to do that because of the hard work of so many. But we can't forget: the fight is not over."

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