Chicago Police

Downtown Businesses Say They Locked Doors, Escorted Customers to Safety Amid Weekend Gatherings

"I don't think it's good for the city," one Chicago business said

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Businesses in downtown Chicago are on edge after "disruptive and violent" behavior by large groups of young people Friday and Saturday resulted in property damage, physical assaults and more than a dozen arrests.

"There's probably a lot of people from the suburbs saying I am not going to come downtown for the weekend, or I am not going to come downtown to go out to eat. I'll just eat in whatever suburb I live in," an employee at Miller's Pub said. "I don't think that's good for the city."

The restaurant, at 134 Wabash Street, sits just blocks away from Millennium Park, where some the weekend's events unfolded. People jumping on cars in the middle of the street, swarms of young people running down busy roads and drivers performing burnouts were among the scenes that played out during the large, "disruptive" gatherings of mainly teenagers.

According staffers, the Pub's security guards wound up locking the restaurant's doors and escorting customers to their cars to help ensure their safety.

The Illinois Restaurant Association also expressed concern.

"This is not just a Chicago issue, but a national one," IRA CEO and President Sam Toia said in an emailed statement to NBC 5, adding that the association is in "constant communication" with elected officials, including Mayor-Elect Brandon Johnson "to ensure there is a plan to keep the peace and enforce existing laws."

Officers made 15 arrests during Saturday’s mayhem, though Downtown Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) said there could have been “dozens more” if not for the “hostility and violence” that confronted officers who attempted to move into the crowd. That included numerous reports of officers and other people being punched, kicked and pelted with bottles and other objects.

In one instance, a couple walking in the Loop Saturday got caught up in the large group of young adults and was brutally assaulted. The assault, captured on cell phone video and originally posted by CWB Chicago, shows a large group of people viciously attacking the couple, punching and kicking both of them.

“We were trying to walk through the crowd, and I was holding his hand and he was walking in front me,” said Ashley Knutson, who was assaulted along with boyfriend Devontae Garrisson-Johnson.“

"First they shoved him, and then they ended up shoving me too.”

'Where Are These Kids' Parents?'

Hopkins and other alderman blasted the Chicago Police department, saying the gatherings fueled by social media devolved into three nights of “mayhem” because of a “total breakdown in command and control” at the Chicago Police Department.

“We’ve had more than our share of downtown mass arrest incidents going back over a decade. This is not new,” Hopkins said. “What is new is to have it happen three days in a row.”

When Chicago hosted the 2012 NATO Summit, CPD handled demonstrators intent on “engaging in rowdy and violent behavior” because there was a “detailed plan” to handle it, Hopkins said.

“We don’t have that now,” he said. “Why not? If we hire a superintendent who has no plan to deal with this, it’s going to keep happening every warm weekend.”

Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) specifically raised alarms about the initial meetup that drew teens to Millennium Park on Saturday night, noting it devolved into “chaos and criminal conduct.”

Two boys, ages 16 and 17, were among an unruly crowd that night in the 100 block of East Washington Street when they were shot, police said. The night before, a 14-year-old boy was wounded by gunfire after another large group gathering at 31st Street Beach.

“Where are these kids’ parents?” Reilly told the Chicago Sun-Times. “They need to know where their kids are going and what they are doing. There needs to be parental accountability for this kind of outrageous behavior.”

“Every year, on our first warm weather weekend, it seems that CPD leadership is caught flat-footed and overwhelmed by these large groups of juveniles on our beaches and in our parks,” Reilly said. “As I do every spring, I have been asking to see the downtown safety plan for this summer and have received no response from CPD.”

CPD Vows to Add 'Additional Security Measures'

According to the statement released Monday, CPD says it will implement "additional security measures such as bag checks at beach entry points and the curfew for minors at Millennium Park will also be in place." 

This past summer, Mayor Lori Lightfoot implemented a 6 p.m. curfew from Thursday through Sunday at the park for "all unaccompanied minors" under the age of 18, whether they are visitors or residents.

A separate 10 p.m. citywide curfew is in effect seven days a week for those 17 years old and under.

"CPD is also working closely with youth and outreach workers for when these gatherings occur," the statement continues."  

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot also issued a statement, and while she says she recognized that many of the teens gathered to enjoy themselves, she also said others were involved in “reckless, disrespectful and unlawful behavior,” and that accountability for those issues is shared among many groups.

“As I have said before, we as a city cannot and will not allow any of our public spaces to become a platform for criminal conduct,” she said. “Most importantly, parents and guardians must know where their children are, and be responsible for their actions.”

Lightfoot said she had spoken with acting Police Supt. Eric Carter about the issues, and that businesses have reached out to express concerns.

Police say they will “make adjustments” to address the “teen trends” issue.

Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson says he does not condone the behavior of those arrested, but that bigger-picture issues must be kept in mind.

“It is not constructive to demonize youth who have otherwise been starved of opportunities in their own communities,” he said. “Our city must work together to create spaces for youth to gather safely and responsibly, under adult guidance and supervision, to ensure that every part of our city remains welcome for both residents and visitors.”

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