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As Lollapalooza Opens, Activists Threaten Federal Lawsuit Over Chicago’s Youth Curfew

The curfew unfairly targets Black and Brown youth and keeps them from Downtown while white residents and visitors get a pass for events like Lolla, organizers said.

Kara Crutcher, legal counsel for GoodKids MadCity and the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, speaks at a Thursday news conference.
Melody Mercado/Block Club Chicago
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DOWNTOWN  — Youth activists say they are prepared to sue the city to roll back its 10 p.m. youth curfew, calling it unconstitutional.

The curfew unfairly targets Black and Brown youth and keeps them from Downtown while white residents and visitors get a pass, lawyers and organizers with GoodKids MadCity and the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council said at a Thursday news conference outside Lollapalooza.

The curfew has been controversial for months — but Lollapalooza highlights its unfairness, organizers said. The festival started Thursday and runs through the weekend.

Organizers and lawyers with the groups said the city curfew’s “Lollapalooza loophole” allows young people to bypass the 10 p.m. daily curfew if they are coming from a ticketed event. That provision benefits the wealthy, white suburban teens and tourists who flock to events like Lolla, while Black and Brown youth don’t get a similar pass, organizers have said.

The curfew for youth was moved from 11 to 10 p.m. in May and expanded to include 17-year-olds. Separately, Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued an executive order in May banning unaccompanied minors younger than 16 from Millennium Park after 6 p.m. on weekends.

RELATED: A Lollapalooza Loophole In Lighfoot’s Curfew To Crack Down On Crime Has Youth Asking: Who Is Downtown For?

GoodKids MadCity and the Brighton Park group sent a letter to the city’s law department Thursday demanding the city rescind the curfew and the Millennium Park restrictions, saying the curfew violates the First and Fourteenth amendments.

“The backdrop of Lolla makes it clear who is allowed to be Downtown and who is allowed to move freely through their city without harassment — and who isn’t,” said Kara Crutcher, a lawyer representing the organizations. “Black and Brown kids are simply not allowed the same freedom and permission.”

A spokesperson for the city’s law department declined comment.

Credit: Melody Mercado/Block Club Chicago
GoodKids MadCity and Brighton Park Neighborhood Council members protest outside of Lollapalooza on July 28, 2022.

The groups’ members hope the city will “meet them in negotiation” but are prepared to file a federal lawsuit if officials don’t, Crutcher said.

“Numerous courts — including the Seventh Circuit — have found youth curfews to be unconstitutional because they infringe upon young people’s First Amendment activity, violate Equal Protection and can negatively implicate parent’s constitutional rights,” the groups wrote in their letter.

Successful lawsuits overturned curfews in Indianapolis and San Diego. Both cases argued those curfews did not narrowly serve a significant “governmental interest,” according to the Chicago organizers’ letter.

Credit: Melody Mercado/Block Club Chicago
Kara Crutcher, legal counsel for GoodKids MadCity and the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, speaks at a Thursday news conference.

Chicago’s curfew changes came amid high-profile shootings Downtown, including that of 16-year-old Seandell Holliday, who was killed near the Bean. Proponents, including Lightfoot, have said the curfews are meant to prevent violence.

But critics have said the curfews are outdated and ineffective. They’ve pointed to research that shows curfews don’t reduce crime.

Additionally, the Sun-Times analyzed data about who was cited for curfew violations during massive Downtown protests after Minneapolis police murdered George Floyd and found 75 percent of the 400 violations were given to Black people.

“We ask ourselves: Is this once again another opportunity for police to target Black and Brown communities? I say yes,” said Jose Navarro, a youth organizer with the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council.

Organizers also demanded City Council adopt the Peace Book ordinance, a plan that would reallocate 2 percent of the Police Department’s budget into community-led violence prevention programs and youth support.

The proposed ordinance has been making its way through City Council, though it’s faced repeated delays. It was most recently re-referred on July 19 to the Joint Committee of Health and Human Relations and Budget and Government Operations.

Crutcher said they don’t yet have a timeline established to indicate when the organizations will file suit. They are waiting to hear back from city officials, she said.

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