This year, after the Chicago Pride Parade held June 27, thousands attended the 13th annual "Rocks" Event at Montrose Beachan event that celebrates LGBT pride for people of color. However, for the second year in a row, city officials have required the event's organizers to end earlier than usual because of violent altercations among attendees. The Rocks is the largest one-day HIV testing project in the Midwest and mixes entertainment, food and dance with the message of safe sex. In the past, city authorities have struggled to quell violence at the event but an early closing requirement was implemented that has produced some results.
Organizers, however, are pushing for the early closing time of 5 p.m. to be lifted and allow the event to close at its regular time next year at 7 p.m. Ariq Cabbler, president of the Rocks Coordinating Committee, said a later end time is necessary because most of the event's attendees arrive after the Pride Parade. "The three o'clock to six o'clock window is critical," Cabbler told Windy City Times, referring to the hours when many of the event's attendees are tested for HIV. "If we have to close at five, that means we have to shut down by four-thirty," he added. "The people attending this event will bear the brunt of it."
But city officials contend that many people who attend the Montrose gatheringwhich caters primarily to the African-American communityarrive earlier in the day, allowing ample time for HIV testing. Moreover, concerns over violence have caused officials with the Chicago Police Department to insist that the event wrap up at 5 p.m. in order for organizers to receive a park permit. Cabbler made no bones about the fact that altercations have been a frequent feature of the event, saying, "We do have a history of a lot of violence."
In 2009, members of the Rocks Coordinating Committee and other stakeholders met to discuss the altercations and decided to increase the number of security personnel in an attempt to head off further violence. But Chicago Police Department officials could not be assuaged and once again insisted that the event wind down early.
Several of the event's organizers called upon its attendees to make their voices heard in response to the early closing requirement. A founding member of the Rocks Coordinating Committee, Michael O'Connor, encouraged those gathered to contact their political leaders: "They let the Pride Parade run on until they get tired, but we have to shut down early. Call your alderman about this violation of your civil rights."
Bill Greaves, the LGBT liaison for the City of Chicago, took a more nuanced approach. "We're not requiring that the event close early. We're just asking that the public address system be turned off at five o'clock," he said. But nixing the address system effectively ends the afternoon's entertainment, which is one of the event's biggest draws. Greaves, however, suggested that is exactly the point. "We're not saying that it's these people who come here that are causing the violence. It's not even the people who come here after the parade. It's another element that is drawn here after five o'clock [ by the entertainment ] that is causing the problem." Greaves stated that the new end time has reduced violent incidents and that any return to the old closing time would have to be accompanied by further reductions in violence.Read more story below....