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With the Gay Games set to begin in the Windy City on Saturday, Mayor Richard Daley has urged Chicagoans to attend and embrace the event but said the city would provide a forum for peaceful dissent.
Police officials said protest areas have been designated outside Saturday's opening ceremonies at Soldier Field and near Wrigley Field, where closing ceremonies are scheduled to be held July 22. "We encourage those individuals who wish to express their First Amendment rights to do so in a peaceful manner," Supt. Phil Cline told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Kevin Boyer, a Gay Games organizer, said he anticipates peaceful protests from those who don't want an event that Daley described as "more than just an athletic competition" in Chicago. "Our answer to them," Boyer said, "is that we are a strong, vital part of this city and that, as the mayor has indicated, we're welcome. We play a role in the economic, political, and social vitality of Chicago. We're ecstatic to be in a place where we're welcomed by every facet of life, whether it be government, business, or nonprofits."
Daley, an outspoken proponent of gay marriage, was asked whether Chicago's decision to host the Gay Games would enhance his administration's reputation as being pro-gay. "I hope so. Yes, definitely," he said to a round of applause from event organizers. "It's very simple. First of all, they are great residents of Chicago. They're our doctors, our teachers, our lawyers. . . . They're involved in child care. They're parents. They're raising families. Definitely. They're great citizens of Chicago." (The Advocate)