Youth basketball tournament to resume after United Center brawl

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A youth basketball tournament cut short by a brawl at United Center is set to resume Wednesday evening. (WLS)

A youth basketball tournament cut short by a brawl at United Center is set to resume Wednesday evening.

The organizers of the tournament spoke about the Monday night brawl. Earnest Gates said he was stunned that nine years of hard work could break down because of one, badly-timed brawl.

"You have to see the look on those kids' faces to appreciate what we do," said Gates.

The Safe Summer Basketball Tournament was underway Monday when fights began both inside and outside the arena, forcing security to shut the event down. Chicago police responded in force to clear the area of the thousands of teenagers. The 60 players, set to play in the West Haven Safe Summer Basketball League's championship game between Curie Metropolitan and Orr Academy high schools on the same court as the Chicago Bulls, were forgotten amid the chaos.

Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said his department is reviewing the incident. No one was arrested or hurt, police said.

Witnesses said the brawl started when security stopped letting people in because of the size of the crowd. More than 10,000 people had arrived to watch the final game.

"We have about 10 to 15 minutes of fighting and disruption that is completely overshadowing everything we've done," said Oji Eggleston of the Near West Side Community Development Corp.

Organizers of the event insisted there is not much they could have done. No amount of security would change a confrontation that had apparently been pre-planned on social media.

"Some of the individuals involved in the brawl are 12 and 13 years of age. They were planning to meet a rival group of individuals at the United Center and use that as a platform to engage in the activities that they did," Eggleston said.

Based out of Crane High School, the Safe Summer Basketball League was born in 2008 after one of its students was gunned down as he left school. Its stated mission is to prevent teenagers from getting into trouble during the summer.

"It's unfortunate, you know. That event was, the whole idea behind it, was to keep kids safe. Then it evolved into what it did. But that just goes to show, you have to have the security in place in the event that those types of things happen, if you're going to invite that many young people to it. But thankfully, no one was seriously injured or hurt. We'll be talking to the sponsors to make sure their security plans are on point the next time around," Johnson said.

The tournament will take place at Crane High School Wednesday night at 6 p.m.

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fightbasketballunited centerchicago police departmentChicagoNear West Side
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