Chicago police clear lakefront on North Side amid social distancing concerns

Chicago police officers began clearing the city’s lakefront Wednesday afternoon, hours after Mayor Lori Lightfoot threatened to shut it down in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

“I hope that I don't have to shut down the lakefront. I hope that I don't have to shut down the parks. But I will if we cannot get compliance,” Mayor Lightfoot said. “What we're seeing is packs of people along the lakeshore. It's not ones. It's not two's. It's packs of people.”

At 5:54 p.m., officers started clearing people from beaches and the Lakefront Trail, beginning at Oak Street and heading north, after receiving reports about large crowds, according to Chicago police.

“Beginning today, one warning. After that, you will be cited. Please do not make us do that. We take no joy in it. But we feel that it is absolutely necessary for the health of this city,” said interim Chicago Police Supt. Charlie Beck.

Chicagoans made their way to the lakefront earlier Wednesday as temperatures in Chicago climbed into the 50s.

The sweep came hours after Lightfoot threatened to shut down Chicago parks, the downtown Riverwalk and the entire lakefront if people continued to ignore Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s order to stay home in an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19.

“One person on the lakeshore is not a problem, but as you start to get more and more people, even when you think you're social distancing, you can't really social distance in a crowd,” said Dr. Allison Arwady of the Chicago Department of Public Health.