Struggling to respond to large gatherings of young people downtown following a spate of shootings, Chicago police arrested 13 people and recovered 11 guns during a daylong, sometimes rowdy Memorial Day party at North Avenue Beach.
Promoted on social media as a “2000s themed cookout,” the beach “takeover” on Monday drew hundreds of people as temperatures jumped into the 90s.
Officers began making gun arrests shortly after the event started and were pelted by glass bottles thrown by partygoers, according to Chief of Patrol Brian McDermott.
At one point, a call went out for a “mass arrest” after a cop was hit in the chest with a pineapple, McDermott said. Three people were then taken into custody.
Video shows at least one fistfight broke out on the beach and ended with one of the brawlers in the water. McDermott said guns were sometimes drawn during “personal disputes” during the party.
Twelve men — ages 19 to 27 — and a 17-year-old boy were all hit with weapons-related charges, police said. Some of them also face charges for drug offenses, reckless conduct and resisting arrest.
“Why do you need a gun to enjoy the beach?” asked Police Supt. David Brown, who joined McDermott at a Tuesday news conference about the weekend violence.
The “influencer” promoting the party took down the social media posts after police reached out, Brown said.
On May 11, another “takeover” party at North Avenue Beach spilled onto the streets of Old Town for hours. Three days later, 16-year-old Seandell Holliday was shot and killed during a fight at another large gathering near “The Bean” at Millennium Park.
The fatal shooting led Mayor Lori Lightfoot to impose a curfew on unaccompanied minors at Millennium Park. She also pushed through the City Council a 10 p.m. curfew that applies to minors 17 and under.
As the long Memorial Day weekend approached, the mayor said she hoped for a “fun and great weekend” and reminded parents of their responsibility.
“I want our kids to enjoy safe spaces all over this city,” she said. “But it starts in the home. And it starts with responsibility — of the parents, the guardians and the caring adults — to make sure that they’re doing what all of our parents did: Which is to set firm, clear rules on conduct.”
But Monday’s event shows how difficult it will be for the city to rein in public parties, particularly with the proliferation of guns.
A huge police presence responded to North Avenue Beach throughout the day, with Chief of Counterterrorism Ernest Cato and Director of Community Policing Glenn Brooks looking on as revelers twerked, passed blunts of weed and drank openly.
At one point, the atmosphere grew tense and some in the crowd were startled when fireworks went off. Later a huge surge of people rushed from the beachfront toward North Avenue’s iconic boathouse, although it was not immediately clear why.
Keith Brown, 27, of Back of the Yards, said he believes the recent downtown gatherings are propelled by people just wanting to enjoy the warmer weather.
“It really be happening because it be so cold in the Midwest and then as soon as we finally get some fresh air or some heat, everybody wanna get out,” said Brown, who was filming for his YouTube page. “And when we out, we like loose dogs.”
He said he wasn’t bothered by the police presence, noting he’s used to seeing cops and “wasn’t event paying them no mind.”
“I think it’s good because of all the stuff that’s been happening,” he said. “So we want to make sure that all the people [are] safe out here.”
But Reggie Edwards, 18, said it felt like officers were “trying to trap people.”
“Whenever they say we gotta leave, I’m leaving,” said Edwards, a Woodlawn resident and Innovations High School student. “I’m not disobeying no orders.