After crowds fill Old Town streets, alderman demands “appropriate legal action” against anonymous beach party promoters

Editor’s note: After publication of this story, another alderman who represents part of Old Town, Brian Hopkins, released his own statement and announced a public meeting to review what happened. His message to constituents is posted in its entirety at the bottom of this report.


Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) wants the city to take “appropriate legal action” against whoever organized Wednesday’s “takeover” of North Avenue Beach. Smith revealed her desires in an email to constituents after hundreds of partiers flooded Old Town after police broke up the event.

Ald. Michele Smith (inset) wants the city to pursue legal action against whoever organized a “permitless” event at North Avenue Beach on Wednesday. | Wikicommons; ABC7Chicago

She said the event did not have a city permit and had promoters said it “was open to all ages and would feature a drinking contest, boxing matches, and twerking contests.”

ABC7 secured police surveillance camera footage that shows the crowd arriving at Clark Street and North Avenue from the beach:

And possible mayoral candidate Paul Vallas tweeted footage of people climbing on top of a CTA bus at LaSalle and Lake Shore Drive during:

Here is Smith’s full email:

Statement on the Event at North Avenue Beach Yesterday

Dear Neighbors,

Yesterday, about 400 people gathered at an unpermitted large-scale event at North Avenue Beach. The event was anonymously promoted via social media and encouraged people to bring their own alcohol and drugs. The event advertising said it was open to all ages and would feature a drinking contest, boxing matches, and twerking contests. This promoted event was unpermitted by the City and the Park District.

Police received advance warning of the event and placed extensive resources at every entrance to the beach, including the pedestrian bridge. This was in order to give police an opportunity to search for liquor and any other illegal items. Police recovered a significant amount of alcohol. Police also prevented any car caravans from loitering at the entrances to the beach.

Party attendees generally ranged from 14 to 21 years of age. An estimated 400 people came to the beach, and while almost all the liquor was removed the group still engaged in many illegal activities including climbing the lifeguard towers, and climbing on CTA buses. This resulted in situations where injuries were probable and the police acted to ensure the well-being of all involved was protected.

In order to prevent injuries, the police initiated a process to direct people to leave the beach. As the group dispersed, residents observed gatherings at local gas stations and other businesses. In all cases, no one was hurt, and very few arrests were necessary. The area was cleared between 11 p.m. and midnight.

We want to thank the Chicago Police and 18th District Commander Jon Hein for their handling of what could have been a tense situation.

I am requesting that the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, and the Chicago Park District work with the Chicago Police to bring appropriate legal action against the organizers for an illegal gathering which endangered many people.

The 43rd Ward hosts hundreds of events every year. We do so in a manner that is safe and secure for participants and residents. The 18th District’s prompt and professional handling of this has sent a message that we will not tolerate unruly or unsanctioned behavior in our community. If you become aware of any events, such as this, occurring in our community please make the Chicago Police aware immediately.

See you in the neighborhood,

Michele

Statement from Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd):

Community Safety Meeting on Monday, May 16 at 5:30pm

Last evening saw an alarming state of unrest along North Avenue between the Gold Coast and Old Town. Multiple arrests have been made, and I am working with local businesses and organizations that may have been damaged as a result of this activity. The investigation into this un-permitted and illegal gathering which originated at North Avenue Beach is ongoing.

Several hundred people who gathered for an illegal event at the beach later crowded the streets and intersections in a mass event that reminds us how quickly this activity can occur. The Chicago Police Department had some notice of this event though early warnings spotted on social media. They quickly worked to create a series of perimeters with which to handle the crowd as it grew in numbers over the course of the evening. Ride-sharing vehicles were also stopped from dropping off in the area as police worked to manage the increasing size of this crowd.

Please join me, alongside the Chicago Police Department, for an in-person meeting co-sponsored by the Old Town Merchants & Residents Association (OTMRA) and Gold Coast Neighbors Association (GCNA) on Monday, May 16, 2022 at 5:30pm. This public safety meeting will address last night’s incident and investigation, and also discuss neighborhood safety plans as we approach the summer months.

When: Monday, May 16, 2022 starting at 5:30pm

Where: The Moody Church at 1635 N LaSalle Drive, Room #108 (Please enter on the LaSalle Drive side at the mid-block entrance marked “1635” shown in the photo below)

Today I talked with many neighbors who witnessed the actions of this crowd, and shared their videos and photos with local police. Some of the area building staff and maintenance workers along North Avenue also made individual efforts to keep the crowd off of private property and out of the alleyways. Police were in the area the entire time and were working to maintain a show of force while dispersing the crowd.

Today I have been discussing the matter with area detectives and 18th District Commander John Hein to understand what additional resources are needed from Mayor Lightfoot and Police Superintendent Brown to get ahead of these types of incidents. Thankfully last night did not see any major injuries, but it was a reminder that there needs to be a dedicated strategic plan from the Chicago Police Department to protect the neighborhoods throughout the summer months.

These past few weeks have seen a sharp increase in alarming crimes within and around our 2nd Ward neighborhoods. Please know that I work very closely with neighborhood stakeholders to focus my ward budget on adding technology upgrades to areas of concern. Additionally, I work to gather updates for neighbors with ongoing investigations while making sure my office helps to build needed casework to assist local police as they pursue arrests and/or prosecutions.

Area detectives have asked my office to continue to assist in gathering evidence related to last night’s investigation. If you have any video footage that can help, please contact my office at Ward02@cityofchicago.org or the 18th District at CAPS.018District@chicagopolice.org.

As more details become available, I will be sharing updates through my ward office and in my weekly newsletter.

Would you please support CWBChicago’s reporting efforts with a contribution or subscription?