Expect to see more police at Chicago Pride events
In the wake of the deadly shooting that killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, there will be more Chicago police patrolling this weekend's Pride Fest and the following weekend's Pride Parade. But will there be more people?
Rather than stay away from the festivities out of fear, some in the suburban gay community believe this could be Chicago's biggest Pride Week yet, as people come out to show their support and solidarity at events like Pride Fest Saturday and Sunday, and the Pride Parade June 26.
"It'll be an act of defiance -- to say that one act of hate can't overshadow their feelings of love and pride," said Deirdre O'Connell, of Carpentersville, past president of the Palatine chapter of Parents Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).
"This is going to make us more determined than ever. My gut feeling is that our numbers will be as great as they ever have been," added Toni Weaver, of McHenry, leader of PFLAG's McHenry chapter and head of the PFLAG Council of Northern Illinois. She plans to walk in this year's Pride Parade, just as she's done in years past.
However, both women say people in the LGBTQ community were rattled by the Orlando murders and by the arrest over the weekend of an Indiana man armed with three assault weapons and ammunition who told police he was headed to a gay pride event in West Hollywood.
"It makes you feel very vulnerable," O'Connell said. It shows that members and supporters of the LGBTQ communities "still have a long way to go in our fight for equality."
They acknowledged that with mass shootings in recent years targeting elementary schoolchildren, people in a church, a rock concert and even a company luncheon, safety can't be guaranteed.
"Maybe if there's increase police presence, people will be less likely to try something," Weaver said.
During Pride Week festivities, Chicago Police will deploy additional officers to the Lakeview, Lincoln Park and Uptown neighborhoods, at special events across the city, and in heavily traveled areas like CTA transportation hubs.
Police said there is no intelligence or threat against the LGBTQ community or any event in Chicago.
Pride Parade Coordinator Richard Pfeiffer said the organization had already hired 70 extra off-duty police officers to help with crowd control, but now will have even more on-duty police officers assisting.
The parade will begin with a moment of silence in memory of the victims, among other commemorations, Pfeiffer said.
"We're not going to let any one person or one group force us to go back in the closet," he said. "You never know where you are in the world now, you're not safe. The world has changed."