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Chaotic Scenes Unfold in Chicago After ‘Teen Takeover’ Descends on City’s Downtown

Published: April 18, 2023
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A general view of the Chicago skyline on June 28, 2018 in Chicago Illinois. Hundreds of teenagers descended on the city’s downtown core to participate in a “Teen Takeover” which resulted in two people being shot and over a dozen arrests on April 15, 2023. (Image: Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)

On Saturday April 15, in Chicago, Illinois hundreds of teenagers descended on the city’s downtown to participate in a social media-driven “Teen Takeover,” resulting in two people being shot, 15 arrested, and widespread property damage.

The weekend’s chaos was similar to a scene that unfolded last year in the city. 

Estimates of just how many teenagers participated in the riots vary from hundreds to thousands.

Police were forced to escort tourists, who had gathered around Chicago’s Millennium Park, to safety after being targeted by the mob. Some tourists were physically assaulted, according to Fox News.  

The group began to form in the early evening, reportedly taking their cues from a social media prompt that called for a “takeover.”

Hundreds of police officers in SWAT gear responded in an attempt to quell the chaos and reported gunfire, multiple times, amongst the crowd.

According to a statement by the Chicago Police Department (CPD) the department said, “Last night CPD monitored activity happening across the city and officers were in place to quickly respond to active incidents and large gatherings,” adding that, “We will continue to have sufficient resources in place as we work to strengthen safety in every neighborhood.”

Mayor-elect defends teenagers

In a statement issued by the outgoing Chicago Mayor, Lori Lightfoot, whose final day as mayor will be next month on May 15, said that “Parents and guardians must know where their children are and be responsible for their actions,” adding that the CPD has assured her that it will make “the necessary adjustments to address these teen trends issues as we move into the summer months.”

Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson, who won the mayoral race earlier this month, beating out moderate Democrat Paul Vallas, initially condemned the violence and destruction before pleading with citizens not to vilify the teenagers. 

“It is not constructive to demonize youth who have otherwise been starved of opportunities in their own communities,” he posted to Twitter.

“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,” he added. 

During his campaign for mayor, Johnson was attacked by his rivals for what they perceived as his support for the “defund the police” movement. 

As Cook County commissioner Johnson wrote a resolution to “redirect funds from policing and incarceration to public services not administered by law enforcement that promote community health and safety equitably.”

However, after entering the Chicago mayoral race, he promised that he wouldn’t cut funding to the CPD by “one penny,” while pushing for increased funding for youth programs, like employment and mental health services. 

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One of Johnson’s first tasks as mayor will be to select the next Chicago police superintendent, a task experts say will be the first test of his approach to crime and policing. 

Johnson said that his ideal choice will be someone with “compassion” and an ability to “be collaborative and competent,” KRCR reported. 

He will also be tasked with implementing the training and promoting of some 200 more detectives, and enforcing red flag laws intended to keep firearms out of the hands of people deemed a a safety hazard to either themselves or the public at large.

‘This is killing our small businesses’

Chicago is currently grappling with a 45 percent increase in overall crime compared to a year ago, prompting many to speak out demanding action be taken.

Bill Morton of the Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce, said at a news conference on the Sunday following the riots, “This is killing our small businesses. This is causing an exodus outside of the state of Illinois and outside of the city of Chicago. We’re losing revenue in the city of Chicago. We’re losing residents in the city of Chicago. We’re losing residents in the state of Illinois. Something has to be done about this.”

He, along with others, are calling for a curfew to be enforced around Millennium Park, a demand that the current mayor and mayor-elect have, so far, failed to respond to.