Memorial Day weekend in Chicago celebrates start of summer with an eye towards safety

CHICAGO (WLS) -- For many, Memorial Day weekend signals the start of summer, and in Chicago the events to celebrate the season and honor those in the armed forces who have given their lives for their country come with an eye toward public safety.

Chicago's new mayor Lori Lightfoot is determined to make good on campaign promises, kicking off Memorial Day weekend by making the rounds at West Side peace parties.

In the spirit of celebration, Mayor Lightfoot shed her suit jacket and joined in for a quick round of bags.

It's also the community work in small neighborhood gatherings that could keep the streets safer on what could otherwise be a violent weekend.

"The more that you can bring, more forces to pull the community in, the less negativity you might have," said Chris Logan.

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For many, Memorial Day weekend signals the start of summer, and in Chicago the events to celebrate the season and honor those in the armed forces who have given their lives for the

Tens of millions of Americans are on the move this Memorial Day weekend, some on their way to Chicago.

"It is awesome. It's beautiful," said Adriana Casillas, visiting from California.

More than 1.7 million passengers will pass through O'Hare and Midway airports, but the majority of travelers will go by road.

"This is the second largest Memorial Day travel weekend or volume of travelers that we have on record, so very busy roads and busy airports as well," said Beth Mosher of AAA.

Beach season in Chicago got underway Friday, though it's hard to tell by the calm on the sand. Bad weather, unfortunately, has RSVP'd for the weekend party.

"The water is still cold," said Eric Fischer, Chicago Park District. "We have 50 degrees, something that will put you in shock if you are in there for a long period."

The Chicago Park District wants beachgoers to have a safe time, and are asking everyone to pay attention to the flags up at the beaches.

"Red for no swimming, so when the beach is closed and no life guard is present. Yellow, there's swimming permitted but caution due to water levels, wind, surf, rain, weather, and green swimming is permitted," Fischer explained.

They're also hoping for fewer collisions between people on bikes and on foot along the lakefront path this summer now that the Lakefront Trail separation project, which stretches 18 miles and created two lanes for different types of traffic, is complete.

Don't forget to keep your eyes on the sky this weekend, not just for rain but for fireworks at Navy Pier.

"We are kicking off the famous Aon Summer Fireworks start Saturday at 10:15, and Wednesdays it will be 9:30," said Payal Patel, Navy Pier. "It will be a 10 minute show on the lakefront. Everyone loves to come out on the pier to enjoy that."

While you're there, you can check out the new rooftop beer garden.

"We are here year-round, but summer is the time to shine for us," Patel said.

Memorial Day is all about honoring and remembering those in the armed forces who lost their lives. The annual Memorial Day parade steps off, rain or shine, at 12 p.m. Saturday at State and Lake, then goes south to Van Buren. Organizers said it's one of the largest parades in the country.

"We have a very robust JROTC programs that all of the schools which brings over JROTC cadets to participate in the parade, along with veterans groups and marching bands," said Ann Hickey, Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.

City's message to would-be gun offenders this weekend: You will go to prison
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Chicago Police carried out a series of raids heading into the Memorial Day weekend, part of their strategy to stop violence before it starts.

Chicago Police carried out a series of raids heading into the Memorial Day weekend, part of their strategy to stop violence before it starts. This weekend will be the first big test for the police department under the new mayor, and Friday the FBI and US Attorney's office threw the weight of the federal government behind the city's anti-violence effort with a message

"As prosecutors, the message we would give to the would be offenders, going into the summer of 2019, If you commit gun crimes you should be prepared to face prison time," said John Lausch, US Attorney.

As police gear up for the Memorial Day weekend, they conducted a series of targeted raids on street gangs arresting 67 people, and in the process seizing guns, drugs and cash. It's something police often do in advance of high profile weekends.

"If they're violent offenders then they don't need to be walking around our streets, that's number one, number two, Kim Foxx and the State's Attorney's office and John Lausch in the US Attorney's office, some of these individuals get severe state charges or federal charges and so these things are not a waste of time," said Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson.

Last Memorial Day Weekend a 20-year-old woman was gunned down in the 800-block of West 76th street, one of seven killed along with 30 others injured. Mayor Lori Lightfoot is hoping the police plan will keep the numbers down this year.

"There's no acceptable number of homicides. There's not. We have to work diligently every day to reduce the number of people who are picking up guns to resolve petty disputes," she said.

Police will be visible downtown to protect high traffic areas, and will be on the trains and in the neighborhoods as well.

City leaders hoping people will do their part and call 911.

"We have to make sure that no one who resorts to violence has any safe sanctuary anywhere in our city," Lightfoot said.
The mayor said the city will do all it can to drive down the violence and keep the shootings as close to zero as possible so everyone, everywhere in the city can enjoy a safe weekend.

Chicago students march for peace ahead of Memorial Day weekend
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Hundreds of Chicago students marched for peace Friday morning ahead of a historically violent holiday weekend.

Hundreds of Chicago students marched for peace Friday morning. The students came together with community activists packed Renaissance Park. Their mission: Peace throughout the city throughout the summer

"It should hold our leaders and our adults of this city accountable that kids shouldn't have to take a day out of school on the South Side or even on the West Side to talk about why they want peace," said Lamar Johnson, a violence prevention coordinator at St. Sabina.

The group is mainly comprised of students from the Auburn Gresham neighborhood, talked about the need for more attention to education and youth programs.

"Chicago is a tale of two cities," Johnson said. "It's very divided and segregated because of resources and lack of economic development and opportunity, but unfortunately the kids in our neighborhoods have to live with the trauma and everyday experience of gun violence."

Typically, warmer weather in the city often comes with a spike in violence. Last August, in one deadly weekend, dozens of people were shot in multiple shootings in Chicago's South and West sides.

Thursday, in an effort to curb the summer violence, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other city leaders outlined the "Our City, Our Safety" initiative.

"We have to all be in," Mayor Lightfoot said. "We know where the challenges are we know those areas where there will be additional support. The city resources are going to be there."

The safety program includes offering more activities for Chicago's youth, targeting the city's trouble spots where both the city and police plan to increase visibility.
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