Unruly downtown Chicago crowds raise alarm for Illinois Restaurant Association

Chicago police outline crowd control steps after violence, street takeovers near Millennium Park

Tuesday, April 18, 2023
Chicago police outline steps to prevent unruly crowds downtown
The Chicago Police Department has outlined steps it is taking to prevent incidents that occurred last weekend when young people swarmed downtown.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Illinois Restaurant Association is raising concerns about unruly crowds in downtown Chicago last weekend.

For the past two days, the city has been in the local and national spotlight after a chaotic weekend.

Video showed groups of young people causing mayhem on Michigan Avenue on Saturday and at 31st Street Beach on Friday.

Some teenagers were shot, dozens of arrests were made, with businesses, residents and tourists scared. These meet ups are often hyped up and circulated on social media.

The unruly crowds in downtown Chicago and street takeovers last weekend have restaurantand business owners downtown expressing alarm.

The Illinois Restaurant Association's goal is to promote, protect and improve the restaurant industry in the state and they're concerned that if people don't feel safe, they won't come downtown, especially as the weather gets warmer.

"One random nice day, so what happens when it's nice every weekend?" wondered Andy Gallios, co-owner of Miller's Pub. "Friday and Saturday night we are going to have to deal with this, I don't know."

Miller's Pub is a family-owned restaurant that has been in the loop for almost 90 years. Gallios said he has no issue with young people coming downtown to have fun, but he doesn't understand how the gatherings are allowed to escalate so quickly.

"I don't understand how it gets to the point of vandalizing and shooting and fights," he said.

The Chicago Loop Alliance plans to hire dozens of security ambassadors to help manage situations.

"They are trained to deescalate situations they are connected to police and social service and outreach," said Michael Edwards, president and CEO of the Chicago Loop Alliance.

Hospitality industry leaders are also looking to the new mayor and the police to address.

"We want to work with Mayor-elect Johnson and come up with some new plans to deal with the violence," Illinois Restaurant Association president Sam Toia said. "Nobody has a real plan. We have to come up with some new ideas and we've got to keep people in authority, we've got to make sure they're doing their job."

The Illinois Restaurant Association says Chicago is a world-class city and they are optimistic that this will get figured out.

Meanwhile, Chicago police said they're continuously reviewing social media about these large potential gatherings, and they will deploy additional resources where necessary.

The two nights of violence and mayhem during the warm weather leading to safety concerns and calls for action from city and community leaders along with businesses and residents.

"We have taken steps, and will take steps to address these teen trends. It's not the first time that we've addressed these issues, but our young people have an opportunity and a right to enjoy the entirety of our city, but they have to do it in a way that is respectful for people and property. And we did address that over the weekend, and we will continue to address it," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. "The vast majority of young people that came downtown because it was a great weather and an opportunity to enjoy the city, that's absolutely entirely appropriate. There are a few that came with different intentions, and they have, and they will be dealt with."

She also tweeted, "We have made historic investments in city youth programming & supporting community-based organizations to create year-round safe spaces for our youth."

The incident raised concerns for Alderwoman Sophia King, whose ward covers that area.

"It was very serious and we have to hold youth accountable and responsible, but we also need to bring the city together because we do need to have activities for the youth," she said.

"We didn't have a tactical plan in place, there was a lot of confusion about who was able to make decisions and there's a lot of decisions in a situation like that. Do you stop CTA trains, do you close CTA stations, do you close streets, do you engage in a foot pursuit?" said 2nd Ward Alderman Brian Hopkins.

Former Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson said he is getting a lot of feedback from rank-and-file officers involved in dealing with downtown disturbances.

"What I'm hearing from cops are is that you know these young folks are taunting them, ha, ha, ha, you can't chase me, you can't do this," Johnson said.

He said the new restrictive foot pursuit policy is contributing to cops feeling like their hands are tied.

"Damned if they do, damned if they don't. You know they want to do something about it, but they're just, they don't want to get in trouble, they don't want to loses their jobs," said Johnson.

Chicago police said in a statement in part, "We actively and continuously review open source social media and additional resources will be available to protect those who are visiting, living or working in the areas of large gatherings."

Those steps include:

-An increased police presence at large gatherings

-Monitoring all activity and police cameras

-Bag checks at beach entry points

-Working with youth and outreach workers

Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson called the chaos unacceptable, but he is also asking people not to demonize youth.

The president and CEO of Chicago's Loop Alliance, which represents downtown businesses, also released a statement, saying in part, "We are saddened by the events that occurred in the Loop (Saturday) evening" and "we are prepared to work with all relevant partners and parties in response to when these trends are detected."

Full CPD statement on weekend unrest:

The Chicago Police Department's top priority is the safety and wellbeing of our residents and visitors, including our city's youth. The reckless, disruptive and violent behavior that was seen downtown this past weekend will not be tolerated. We encourage our young people to be safe and responsible as they enjoy their weekends, but anyone engaged in criminal activity will be arrested and held accountable.

We actively and continuously review open source social media and additional resources will be available to protect those who are visiting, living or working in the areas of large gatherings. Resources include an increased police and command staff presence at these gatherings citywide. Our Strategic Decision Support Centers (SDSCs) will also be monitoring all activity and police cameras to assist in the proactive reallocation of resources when necessary.

Additional security measures such as bag checks at beach entry points and the curfew for minors at Millennium Park will also be in place. CPD is also working closely with youth and outreach workers for when these gatherings occur.

We strongly encourage parents to accompany their teens or have them remain under the supervision of a responsible adult. We will continue working alongside our community organizations and leaders to provide safe spaces and alternatives for our youth across the city.

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