BRONZEVILLE — Hundreds of young people headed to 31st Street Beach this week for a huge, impromptu “beach takeover” party promoted on social media, leading to a large police response.
Videos posted of the Wednesday party show officers surrounding teens and young adults as partygoers mill about. Social media account Chicago Media Takeout reported people were jumping on cars and throwing things at the officers.
Police reported four arrests, including for aggravated battery to a police officer and unlawful use of a weapon.
But Watch Guard founder Marquinn McDonald, who was on patrol with other members of his all-volunteer violence prevention team at the beach, told Block Club the gathering was mostly peaceful.
“You had pockets here and there, but overall the kids were just being kids. I didn’t see any of them jumping on cars or throwing anything at the police. They just wanted to kick it on a hot summer night with their friends,” said McDonald. He said the fact there was a low number of arrests was a net positive.
“We have to stop vilifying these kids. They’re babies. … Some of them come from trauma, some come from broken homes or broken communities. They just wanted to relax, relate and release,” McDonald said.
Concerns about large crowds of teens in popular local destinations have grown since a 16-year-old boy was killed in Millennium Park last month, leading to Mayor Lori Lightfoot banning unaccompanied minors from the park during weekend evenings and moving the citywide curfew from 11 to 10 p.m.
According to police crime data, the last shooting at the beach occurred in 2020. During the summer, 31st Street Beach hosts a number of cultural events, from house music parties to festivals.
Derek Sims, who operates a slushie stand on the beach six days a week, said he feels safe as there are “cameras everywhere” and police stationed nearby.
“I usually leave before the crowds come, but I don’t have any problems with anybody,” Sims said.
Sims’ sentiments were largely shared by other beachgoers Thursday, who said Wednesday night’s incident wouldn’t affect their desire to head to the beach. Frequent visitor Louis Gordon said he also saw it as a matter of “kids being kids.”
“As long as you keep to yourself, you’ll be fine. But these kids do need structure and support. This is what happens when kids don’t have anything to do,” Gordon said.
Will, an occasional visitor who didn’t want his last name used, said parents who need to take responsibility. Planning to watch the NBA Finals with a group of friends, he expected Thursday night’s crowd to be a “little older and a little more mature.”
“I am worried about what might happen this summer. These kids are doing stuff they shouldn’t be doing, and that’s on the parents. There’s plenty for kids to do in this city. They just don’t want to do it,” said Will.
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