CHICAGO (WLS) --The Bud Billiken Parade is one of Chicago's biggest celebrations. The annual back-to-school event has been a longtime favorite in the community. But this year, some are upset over new limits on who can participate.
Chicago Defenders Charities has run the parade for nearly nine decades. The group was forced to employ cost-cutting measures this year, including shortening the length of the parade. In the past, the mile-and-a-half parade has taken up to 6 hours to complete. Organizers reduced the number of entries and imposed a 100-person cap on the number of people in each participating group.
The South Shore Drill Team, a Bud Billiken Parade staple for the last 35 years, decided not to participate this year because it would mean cutting their head count in half. Team officials said they want every single child to be allowed to be part of the parade.
Dr. Marc Sengstacke, executive director of Chicago Defender Charities, told ABC7 Eyewitness News organizers have to be fair and apply the limit to every participating group.
A meeting to discuss the new limits was supposed to calm concerns Thursday. But it may have had the opposite effect. Community activists jumped up to the microphones, saying the parade should be a platform to expose problems between police and Chicago's African American community.
"I say, 'Why?' These organizations are fighting for black and brown lives that are getting killed on these streets, being treated like savages. Why can't they be part of a black parade?" said Ja'Mal Green, an activist.
Chicago police are expected to be on hand Saturday morning, to provide security for the back-to-school extravaganza.
Watch the 87th annual Bud Billiken Parade on ABC7 starting at 9 a.m. Saturday.