In Chicago, a controversy took place the weekend of June 26-27 over the annual Rogers Park LGBTQ+ event Pride North and its entry fee.
On June 26 (Saturday), the $20 fee was listed as a suggested donation. However, the following day, the fee was reportedly designated as mandatory, causing some to storm off. On the official Pride North Facebook page, one person posted, "Got turned away today around 4:30, because I didn't have $20 in cash. Neighborhood Facebook groups are covering for you by turning off commenting on their posts, but if your organizers aren't replaced I can't support you in the future.
"Still waiting for Alderwoman Maria Hadden to let us know why she permitted you, and who the compulsory fees collected are benefiting." (According to the person who posted, Hadden later called to explain.)
Another person posted, "It is illegal to force people to pay the $20 donation. You guys were forcing people to pay, and not verifying vaccination cards as the flyer suggested." And another person stated, "What's with the rude guardian of the gate demanding $20?Absolutely no walk throughs?!? Since when can you block access to a public sidewalk?"
One person who spoke with Windy City Times on the condition of anonymity stated, "[Ald.] Hadden was informed of [the fee situation] and she went in and talked to the organizers and they agreed to correct the problem. But, as of 5 p.m. Sunday, the signs still read $20."
Pride North owner Colm Treacy talked with Windy City Times about his knowledge of what transpired. "The event went without a hitch all weekend, in my eyes, except for late Sunday," he said. "Saturday was all good, although it rained several timesand all the signs we created for the event got wet. But on Sunday, we made all new signs. Apparently, one sign said '$20 only.' The alderwoman contacted me about that sign about 1:30 via text message. I immediately got rid of that sign.
"My next interaction with the alderwoman [happened] when she came to the event and said two friends wondered why there should even be a suggested donation. I gave those two friends their money back and that was it."
Treacy then said Hadden contacted him again about an hour later. "She sent me an email saying that she was coming to the event, but since there was a cover charge she was going someplace else. I thought, 'Okaybut you were just here, and there's no cover charge. Maria Hadden showed up around 8:30 p.m. and asked for me. A police officer said to her, 'At no point has anyone been asked for me. It's just been a suggested donation.' She looked at the police officer and myself and said, 'Clearly, I'm standing in front of two liars.' Things didn't go very well after that. After that, the alderman made a videoand that's where we are."
On Hadden's official Facebook page, there is a video of her speaking about the situation with the caption "Pride North Chicago cannot require you to pay to access the festival or the street. It's a violation of their permit. You should report it via 311 immediately."
Windy City Times has also reached out to Hadden for comments. If she responds, this article will be updated.