Alderman suggests shortening Bud Billiken parade after shooting

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A South Side aldermen suggested Monday that it may be time to shorten the nation’s oldest and largest African-American parade after a shooting Saturday near the Bud Billiken parade route injured two teens and frightened families.

“As the parade has aged, perhaps now it’s just time to take a look at tweaking it to figure out what changes need to be made,” local Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) said during a live interview on the WFLD-TV program, “Good Day Chicago.” 

“The parade…can be up to five hours [long]. Perhaps  it should be only two [or] 2 1/2 hours. I’m just saying no parade should go five to six hours. We just need to have some conversations about ways to tweak it. I’m not saying the time has to change. I’m just saying that’s something we should look at [along with] traffic management and the way police are dispersed.”

On a picture-perfect Saturday, the annual end-of-summer celebration sponsored by Chicago Defender Charities was marred by the first shooting in the parade’s 85-year history.

An 18-year-old man and a 17-year-old boy were shot while standing in the 4200 block of South King Drive along the parade route. Both victims survived and at least one was taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Witnesses said several babies and a woman confined to a wheelchair were nearby when shots rang out.

“Why can’t we just have one day of peace?” paradegoer Sherri Grover shouted to the crowd as police tended to the victims.

“I just ask that the gangbangers stop the violence, please,” Grover said. “This is the one day for our children.”

During Monday’s live TV inteview on FOX, parade director Beverly Reed-Scott reiterated her weekend claim that the local media over-played the “minor” incident.

“In the past, headlines have never been, `Bud Billiken Parade happens. Nobody shot. Nobody killed.’ This year when we have a minor incident, to have the lead about that fantastic parade to be the shooting was unfair to the thousands of children who practiced six months waiting for this moment to shine,” Reed-Scott said.

“If someone was shot in the hand and arm anywhere  else, that shooting would not have been reported. Murders are reported. Shootings in the hand are not. It was Bud Billiken that gave that shooting prominence.”

Dowell, whose ward includes the parade route through Bronzeville, begged to differ.

“I don’t agree with the use of the word `minor.’ Any time you have that many people gathered and you have shots fired, that bullet could have hit a young person. It could have hit a senior. Fortunately, it was the first time it’s ever happened in 85 years,” she said.

After the television interview, Dowell refused to return phone calls about her proposal to shorten the parade that has become a day-long celebration of African-American families and a must-attend for politicians courting votes.

In a series of text message to the Chicago Sun-Times, Dowell said she would have “no additional comment on the parade” until a post-mortem with city officials on Wednesday.

“I said perhaps [we should shorten it]. I also said we should look at traffic management and police deployment,” she wrote.

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