A number of emergency calls on Memorial Day could pose a credibility problem for Mayor Rahm Emanuel and his new police superintendent.
The official word from city officials has been that North Avenue Beach was closed that holiday due to concerns for public health. But calls made by beach-goers to Chicago's Office of Emergency Management and Communications seem to support claims that gang activity was also at play.
"There's a fight breaking out on the beach, because there's nothing but animals covering this beach today," one caller is heard saying in recordings obtained by WLS-AM radio through a Freedom of Information Act request.
"You can't even walk along the bike path or ride along the bike path. There's the crowd control. What the hell is going on?" the caller fumes.
Another caller selling chairs and umbrellas at the Oak Street Beach concession stand also called 911 after he said he was harassed.
"We have a couple of gentlemen, well, actually a few people, threatening to shoot us, threatening to whoop our ass. They're unhooking our equipment," the caller said.
By 6 p.m. on that holiday, the beach was closed.
In a statement released late Thursday evening, police officials said the release of the calls changes nothing, and maintained that the decision to close the beach was made "in the interest of public safety and public health."
Indeed, with temperatures in the 90s, about a half-dozen people at North Avenue Beach were treated for heat exhaustion. Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said ambulances could not get to victims.
"Chicago police responded to incidents at Oak Street Beach, however no arrests were made in connection to any batteries at this location," the department said.