Mayor-Elect Johnson Addresses Statement on Downtown Disturbances Following Speech in Springfield

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Following an address to the Illinois General Assembly in Springfield on Wednesday afternoon, Mayor-elect of Chicago Brandon Johnson addressed his recent statement on last weekend's downtown disturbances to reporters.

After violence and disturbances in downtown Chicago resulted in several injuries and arrests last weekend, Mayor-elect Johnson issued a statement condemning the violence while emphasizing that it was not constructive "to demonize youth who have otherwise been starved of opportunities in their own communities."

Johnson was asked about his statement by reporters following his speech to the General Assembly, with the mayor-elect denying that his comment sent out a mixed message.

"Of course we don't condone that behavior. That's the first thing I said," Johnson told reporters, before bringing up the environment of his home neighborhood to emphasize a message of public safety.

Johnson asked if anyone had "more incentive for a safer Chicago" than someone raising a family in Austin, the large West Side community area that has been generationally afflicted by violent crime.

The mayor-elect went on to tell reporters that interpretation of his statement as a mixed message was giving residents a "false choice."

"You can make sure that we eradicate the root causes that lead to violence, and we also can make sure that there's support on the front line to make sure that we're preventing violence. It's a false choice, and no one takes it more seriously than a family that lives through it every single day," Johnson said.

Johnson's address comes with just under four weeks left until he takes office as Chicago's 57th mayor.

He spent much of the early portion of his address praising the General Assembly for legislation passed that increased investment in social services, contributing to what Johnson earlier referred to as the "vanguard for progressive policy."

"Young people were lifted up in every single neighborhood of Chicago because of this body. Seventy million dollars in domestic violence prevention and $2 million for expanding trauma recovery centers. That's not only money well spent, but it was also a smart investment that saves lives," Johnson said.

Johnson also alluded to the state's upgraded credit rating, while invoking the state's budget as a model for his incoming mayoral administration.

"My mission in Chicago is to bring about the same smart, responsible, bold approach to budgets that have delivered here in Springfield," Johnson told legislators.

The mayor-elect then called for cooperation with the city and state's business community, saying that Chicago and Springfield could work together to grow the state's existing industries while attracting new ones, labeling Chicago as the "economic engine of Illinois."

"We'll do it together by leveraging our strength, a dynamic workforce, a world class cultural and educational institutions, robust infrastructure and progressive values that embrace everyone," Johnson said.

Johnson added that the state's "progressive values" were key in Chicago's selection as the host city for the 2024 Democratic National Convention.

Public safety was also a focal point of Johnson's address, with both crime and support of police officers garnering attention.

"We have a mandate to make bold necessary investments that address the root causes of violence, and we must do a better job of supporting our law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line every single day," Johnson said.

Johnson said that police officers are being asked to do too much, and that they will receive adequate support and expanded mental health services in his administration for "one of the most dangerous jobs in America."

The mayor-elect went on to tout his plans to greatly expand youth employment and hire 200 new detectives as components to addressing the root causes of crime and improve Chicago's clearance rate.

The address also featured Johnson reiterating his plans to reopen the city's mental health clinics, saying the move would allow the city to "build on the support for mental health care that Springfield has provided for years."

Johnson's address comes on the heels of a chaotic weekend in Chicago that saw large gatherings of mostly teens and young adults engage in "reckless, disruptive and violent" behavior near Millennium Park and 31st Street Beach.

The events resulted in property damage, physical assaults' and at least 15 arrests.

Through his transition committee Chicago for the People, Johnson issued a statement on the events, writing "in no way do I condone the destructive activity we saw in the Loop and lakefront this weekend."

"It is unacceptable and has no place in our city," he said. "However, it is not constructive to demonize youth who have otherwise been starved of opportunities in their own communities."

Johnson went on to say "our city must work together to create spaces for youth to gather safely and responsibly."

The mayoral inauguration is set for Monday, May 15, which will mark the official transition from Mayor Lori Lightfoot's administration to Johnson's administration.

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