While some residents are not thrilled about the return of the South Side Irish Parade, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday he believes the parade can be a more "respectful" affair this time around.
The parade was canceled in 2009 after nearly 300,000 people showed up -- leading to dozens of arrests, assaults on police officers and damage to local property. Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th) has repeatedly spoken against bringing back the parade, which he described to the Chicago Sun-Times as a "lawless" event. He went on to say the city should focus on other issues, not funding the parade.
“I’m about to close Beverly-Morgan Park mental health facility a half-mile up the parade route," O’Shea told the Sun-Times. "I have a classroom at a school a few blocks from the parade route with 40 kids in it. We’re doing layoffs citywide. We’re [cutting back] library hours. If we’ve got $300,000 to put on a parade, I’d like to see it spent on some of those problems.”
Emanuel, however, said the parade allows Irish Americans to celebrate their heritage.
“That parade is a recognition to Irish Americans who call Chicago home,” Emanuel told the Chicago Tribune Wednesday. “It is my hope that after a few years of hitting the pause button, people remember a way to celebrate their heritage, celebrate and be proud of it in a way that’s also respectful of the community and the neighborhood.”
Last week, the Department of Transportation approved a permit for the parade, on the condition that it would be an alcohol-free affair. Local merchants reportedly donated $80,000 to hire a private security firm, and police plan on checking bags and coolers for booze on the day of the event -- which will be March 11.
“Safety is paramount to our plan,” parade committee chairman Joe Connelly told the Sun-Times. “We are serious about having a zero-tolerance alcohol police, and that’s for everybody. Our intent is to have an alcohol-free parade.”