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3 Teens Wounded In Shootings As Large Groups Gathered Downtown, At 31st Street Beach This Weekend 

As the weather warms up, large groups of teens gather Downtown. But the meetups have also seen violence in past years, fueling debate among officials over how and when young people gather.

Large clouds hover over Lake Michigan at 31st Street Beach as light rain passes through Chicago on June 7, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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DOWNTOWN — Two teens were wounded in shootings Downtown and a third on the Near South Side this weekend as large groups gathered.

The gatherings came as Chicago saw 70- and 80-degree weather and many people gathered outside. Videos on social media showed hundreds of young people gathered Friday night near 31st Street Beach, and other videos showed more large groups of people Saturday night Downtown.

But some of the gatherings were marked by violence: Shortly before 9 p.m. Friday, a 14-year-old boy was shot in his left thigh near the 3100 block of DuSable Lake Shore Drive, police said. He was taken to Comer Children’s Hospital in fair condition.

And about 9 p.m. Saturday, a 16-year-old boy was shot in his right arm and a 17-year-old boy was shot in his left leg in the first block of East Washington Street, police said. They were taken to Northwestern Hospital in fair condition.

No one was in custody in the shootings, and officers are investigating.

Nine adults and six juveniles were also arrested at the gathering Saturday, officials said. Officers were responding to people “engaging in reckless and disruptive behavior” and “putting themselves and the public at risk for harm” Saturday night, police said. Most of the people arrested faced a reckless conduct charge, but two people were charged with possession of a stolen vehicle, police said.

A 16-year-old was also charged with unlawful of a weapon, police said.

Such gatherings have made major headlines in springs and summer past, with young people gathering in large groups, especially Downtown, as the weather warms up. But they’ve also seen violence in past years, fueling debate over how and when young people gather.

Young people have said they have a right to public spaces, while some officials have tried to prevent large groups. After 16-year-old Seandell Holliday was fatally shot near The Bean, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and City Council last year lowered the overall curfew to 10 p.m. for people 17 and younger and banned youth from Millennium Park on weekends. They faced heavy criticism for the changes — and data shows the curfew had little effect on crime — but officials argued they changes were necessary.

In a statement this weekend, Lightfoot said the city “cannot and will not allow any of our public spaces to become a platform for criminal conduct.” Police Department leaders have told her they will “make the necessary adjustments these teen trends issues” as Chicago gets closer to summer, she said.

“Many of [the young people gathering] were there to have a good time and enjoy the unseasonably warm weather,” Lightfoot said in her statement. “However, some of those young people were involved in reckless, disrespectful and unlawful behavior.

“… Parents and guardians must know where their children are and be responsible for their actions. Instilling the important values of respect for people and property must begin at home.”

Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson said this weekend’s violence “is unacceptable and has no place in our city” but defended young people gathering.

“It is not constructive to demonize youth who have otherwise been starved of opportunities in their own communities,” Johnson said in his statement. “Our city must work together to create spaces for youth to gather safely and responsibly under adult guidance and supervision, to ensure that every part of our city remains welcome for both residents and visitors.”

The Police Department said it will hold accountable anyone who breaks the law.

“Everyone is welcome and encouraged to enjoy all that Chicago has to offer including the popular downtown area, but criminal activity will never be tolerated,” the Police Department said in a statement this weekend. “Those engaged in criminal activity will be arrested and held accountable.”

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