911 tapes reveal fights before beach shutdown

June 24, 2011 8:03:09 AM PDT
The City of Chicago has released some of the 911 calls that led police to shut down North Avenue Beach on Memorial Day.

The calls reveal violence may have been a problem when the beach was closed.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago's top cop, Garry McCarthy, have insisted the action was due to concern about public health and safety because of heat-related illnesses. They said the closure did not have to do with gangs or fights. But the 911 calls include complaints about fights involving dozens of people at Oak Street Beach and North Avenue Beach.

Caller: "We need immediate police officers on the scene. I believe there's a fight.
Operator: How many would you say? 10, 20, 30?
Caller: I would say 30 or more.
Operator: Do you see any baseball bats or knives or anything? Caller: I do not.
Operator: Okay, we'll get some officers over."

"There are a few people who say they're going to shoot us and whoop our a--," another caller said.

"There is a fight breaking out on the beach because there is nothing but animals covering this beach today...You can't even walk or ride along the bike path - there is no crowd control. What the hell is going on?" one caller asked.

Callers also revealed problems spilling onto Lake Shore Drive. "There are people literally trying to run across Lake Shore Drive. I almost took out two of them."

At the time, when heat problems seemed to be the main issue, Mayor Emanuel backed the police department's decision, and his spokesman says he still holds that position.

"They took the right steps to ensure the safety of individuals who were at the beach showing physical signs of heat exhaustion," said Emanuel.

The 911 calls released Thursday did not include any heat-related problems. Police say people at the beach went directly to firefighters and paramedics at the beaches when they needed assistance and help.

Police say six people were arrested along the lakefront that day and 36 citations were issued.

Supt. McCarthy's full statement in reponse Thursday evening:

The Chicago Police Department made the decision to close North Avenue beach on Memorial Day in the interest of public safety and public health because of numerous heat-related illnesses on the scene. The closure of North Avenue beach was unrelated to any activity at Oak Street beach on Memorial Day. The Chicago Fire Department initiated an EMS Plan 1, which required the response of multiple ambulances. A total of four people were transported by CFD ambulance, including one person in critical condition. A number of other people approached CFD personnel on site requesting assistance for medical issues. Chicago Police responded to incidents at Oak Street beach, however no arrests were made in connection to any batteries at this location. Chicago Police were also present on the lakefront to maintain crowd control, making six arrests, including one for reckless conduct, an outstanding warrant, and violations of Park District ordinances. Chicago Police also issued 36 citations for violations of City ordinances.

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