City touts Pride Parade compromise but some organizers still frustrated with downsizing, lack of communication

Mayor Brandon Johnson’s administration said Friday that more groups would be allowed to participate in next month’s Chicago Pride Parade but the declared compromise still left some in the city’s LGBTQ+ community frustrated and calling for the progressive mayor to ensure they are more involved in future decisions about the event.

This year’s Pride Parade, being held June 30, will be limited to 150 groups — the smallest in years — and will be shorter and start an hour earlier. But Johnson’s compromise increased the number of group participants over a previous city proposal of 125.

In what the mayor’s office described as a “joint statement” released Friday afternoon from the city, its advisory council on LGBTQ+ issues and parade organizers, Johnson did not expand on why the parade was shrinking aside from “minimizing logistical strains.”

But hours after the mayor’s office sent the statement, the council released its own statement saying it “did not review the statement and did not approve the council joining the statement. We are disappointed that the LGBTQ+ community was not consulted in reducing the entries and the shortening of the route.”

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LGBTQ+ community groups said the parade’s downsizing is part of the city’s plans to help police keep staffing levels at a reasonable level while still maintaining safety in the North Side neighborhoods near where the parade is held. In past years, shootings and other crimes have occurred in and around the Lakeview neighborhood following Pride Parade celebrations.

“The city of Chicago has been engaged in a collaborative effort with the Mayor’s Advisory Council on LGBTQ+ Affairs, Chicago Pride Parade organizers, the business community, residents and multiple city agencies to develop a sustainable and accessible parade route for this year’s Pride Parade,” the mayor’s office said. “This collective endeavor reflects our shared commitment to fostering community engagement while ensuring an efficient allocation of resources.”

In addition to the later statement from the advisory council, the head of one of Chicago’s largest LGBTQ+ groups, Equality Illinois, said Friday that he found the city’s decision to downsize the parade “deeply upsetting” during a time when many in the LGBTQ+ community feel under attack politically.

“This is going to be the fewest number of floats that we know of in decades,” said Brian Johnson, CEO of Equality Illinois. “At a time when our community and our allies have worked so hard to make Illinois the beacon of queer dignity in the Midwest, and maybe in the country — this is not the right time to cut back on such a signature event.”

The head of the Mayor’s Advisory Council on LGBTQ+ Affairs, Jin-Soo Huh said LGBTQ+ community members were left out of early discussions making changes to the summer event, which has been held in Chicago for over 50 years to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall uprising in New York City.

Huh said after the advisory council and other groups learned of the initial city plans to shrink the parade, they detailed their concerns in a letter to the mayor’s office that was also made public. After that, Huh said, the city began engaging the groups in discussions to enhance safety without overly restricting an event with deep-seated cultural significance to many.

In part because there’s not much time before the parade steps off, the advisory council and parade organizers agreed to the compromise of 150 entries, which is a nearly 25% decrease compared with last year.

“Pride Parade organizers shouldn’t have been put in this position to make these cuts, changes in the route — the city should have engaged the community in making this decision,” Huh said. “The primary organizers agreed to these changes, noting that time became a factor because they have to make sure they give new entries ample notice for them to prepare.”

On top of the 150 group limit, other changes to the Pride Parade include its start time and where it steps off.

The parade will begin at 11 a.m. instead of noon as in past years, and it will begin at Sheridan Road and Broadway instead of at Montrose Avenue and Broadway in Uptown. The mayor’s statement said changing the route will allow for “major arterial and side streets to be open for safety vehicles and traffic access, and to provide additional opportunities for spectators to flow to the east side of the route.”

Organizers said they were less concerned with changes to the time and parade route and just wished they had been included in discussions before city officials began proposing those changes.

“That decision was made about our community without us at the table,” Huh said. “Pride for us isn’t just a parade for the LGBTQ+ community. It’s a celebration of our community, standing up to suppression methods that told us that we do not belong in celebration of being free to live our truths and being visible. And so it’s not just an event to manage.”

Huh said for next year’s Pride Parade, the mayor’s office has committed to “begin conversations earlier” and involve the LGBTQ+ advisory council throughout the planning process.