Activists Hope to Publicize Youth-Friendly Activities in Wake of Downtown Chicago Disturbances

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As Chicago police implement new safety measures in downtown and at the city’s beaches after disturbances occurred over the weekend, activists and leaders are hoping to steer young residents to constructive activities and programs.

More than a dozen teens were arrested after gatherings at city beaches and near Millennium Park on several nights over the weekend, with at least three people shot and numerous instances of vandalism and property damage reported.

Chicago’s mayor-elect Brandon Johnson says that the city needs to do more to keep those areas secure, but also emphasized that there need to be opportunities for young residents to participate in constructive activities.

“It is not constructive to demonize youth who have been otherwise starved of opportunities in their own communities,” he said.

Pastor Corey Brooks of New Beginnings Church is one of those seeking to inspire young people to stay out of trouble.

“First of all, there are a lot of things to do in the city of Chicago, and committing crimes and violence is not some of the things that our youth should be participating in,” Brooks said. “And when you talk about demonizing youth, you demonize them when you don’t hold them accountable.”

Brooks’ church says they provide opportunities in Woodlawn and Englewood until 11 p.m. every Friday, with free transportation.

The programs include poetry readings, listening to music, eating pizza and dancing, among other activities.

Father Michael Pfleger of Auburn Gresham’s St. Sabina Church, a noted anti-violence activist in the city, says that his church is offering similar activities.

“We had over 800 kids in the gym all day,” he said.

He also said parents need to take more action in terms of keeping their children out of trouble.

“16-year-olds should not be downtown at 11 o’clock on a Saturday night,” Pfleger said. “Now we have location on our phones. We can tell where people are at at different times. We gotta know where our kids are at for their safety!”

The city of Chicago also says it will work to enhance awareness of opportunities for youth in all 77 of the city’s neighborhoods.

Job opportunities are available through the “One Summer Chicago” program, and the Chicago Park District also has lists of events on their website.  

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