Chicago's attention turns to downtown this weekend after violent display

Chicago is bracing for the weekend as teenagers plan to gather again downtown.

The gathering most advertised on social media is for Saturday night in Millennium Park, and police are getting ready.

"I feel like we are safe. The police are doing everything they can in their power to make people come and enjoy the city," said a tourist named Donna, in from Boston.

For the past two days, there has already been an increased police presence in the downtown area, with more cops on foot and on bicycle around Michigan Avenue.

There is a curfew for teens under the age of 18 in Millennium Park. Any time after 6 p.m., they have to be with an adult 21 years or older.

Downtown Alderman Brian Hopkins says Chicago police commanders have been meeting all week, working on tabletop exercises and running through scenarios to keep everyone safe.

"The solutions involve both the carrot and a stick. The carrot is to engage in youth programming and diversion programs, and to try to get them involved in positive things. And the stick has to be you're under arrest if you break the law. And I'm not talking about just simple curfew violations. We're talking about armed robbery, gun violence, attacking bus drivers, damaging property, looting drug stores – all of those things. We can't allow that to happen. And the only way to stop it is to take people into custody when they engage in that behavior," Hopkins said.

There is fencing around Millennium Park, which is not new. It has been there for a couple of years, but Hopkins says that part of it has been fixed and enhanced to funnel crowds.

Alderman Hopkins said Chicago police senior commanders have been meeting all week and working thorough tabletop exercises.

"Simulating different scenarios trying to predict what might happen and trying to come up with creative solutions because clearly what we've done so far, hasn't worked," said Ald. Hopkins.

He has also heard that some businesses downtown may be closing early Saturday night.

For the past week, teens have been planning on social media to gather in downtown Chicago and the suburbs.

Last Saturday, the tone escalated to vandalism and violence. People were seen running in traffic, damaging cars and fighting.


This time around, pastors will be on Michigan Avenue to help young people make good choices.

"Black men owe it to our younger counterparts to say, ‘this is not the way.’ And that we grew up in some of the same conditions oftentimes but again, for whatever reason, by the grace of God, we were given alternatives and when we listened, we found out that our worth was not in violence and negative things," Pastor Horace Smith of Apostolic Faith Church said.

A new group, Parents for Chicago will be monitoring activities and sharing information through texts and emails.

Early Walker founded Parents for Chicago in partnership with Chicago police. The group will receive verified information and send it to parents who have signed up for the service. He said it will get parents to check on their children. It’s an effort to bring the community together to work together.

Chicagoans are hoping authorities will be able to keep everyone safe.

Natalie Duffy suggested that police be allowed to do their job to protect the public.

Tamara Watson said Chicago should have a special police unit just for Millennium Park to disperse the crowd when it starts getting loud and unruly things get tense.

Police know that with all this adult focus on the next teen gathering, locations and times could change. They said they’re ready for that, too.