Chicago’s crowd takeover problem: ‘disgusting, awful, terrible,’ or kids making ‘silly decisions?’ Depends on who you ask.

Sen. Dick Durbin (L) and Chicago Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson | senate.gov; Twitter

CHICAGO — Days after hundreds of young people converged on the Loop and 31st Street Beach in a series of social media-fueled “takeovers,” resulting in three teens shot and at least 15 people arrested, officials are offering sharply different assessments.

While Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson said in a written statement Monday that he does not “condone the destructive activity,” calling it “unacceptable,” on Wednesday he seemed to chalk it all up to young people who “sometimes make silly decisions.”

But Sen. Richard Durbin pulled no punches, calling videos of the weekend’s takeovers “disgusting, awful, terrible.”

Speaking with ABC7 on Wednesday, the state’s senior senator said, “The videos I saw, that activity on the streets downtown, are just disgusting, awful, terrible. Violence is never acceptable. Those circumstances and the destruction of property is not a constitutional right or freedom of expression — unacceptable.”

“Those of us who have been fighting to bring the Democratic National Convention to Chicago did so with the promise that those again would have a positive and good experience in the process,” Durbin continued.

Durbin endorsed Johnson’s opponent, Paul Vallas, in the recent mayoral run-off.

Johnson, speaking with reporters after addressing the Illinois General Assembly, offered his view:

“Look, the violence that happened over the weekend and the violence that happens too many weekends and too many days, of course, we don’t condone that behavior. That’s the first thing that I said,” Johnson began.

“Look,” he said, “demonizing children is wrong. We have to keep them safe as well. Have you ever taught middle school? I have.  Have you ever raised young people? Do you understand the risks that young people take just because they’re young? Do you know that home plate is at the bottom of my stairs? I found that out when my son was sliding down those stairs, trying to score. They’re young. Sometimes they make silly decisions. They do. And so we have to make sure that we are investing to make sure that young people know they are supported.”

It’s not clear who Johnson believes is “demonizing children.”

His suggestion that the problem is linked to “silly decisions” harkens back to a May 2018 statement by then-Chicago Police Supt. Eddie Johnson that a violent group of young people who swarmed the Mag Mile was “kids do[ing] goofy things.”

Some community groups are making their own plans in light of the latest round of problems.

My Block, My Hood, My City hopes to organize a “Downtown Day” to bring 1,000 people between the ages of 13 and 22 to explore downtown on July 8 with $50 gift cards to buy food, cultural items, and enjoy activities.

“By 2025, we don’t want youth to be able to say ‘I’ve never been downtown.’ Together, we can eliminate that phrase,” the group wrote in an online pitch to potential sponsors.

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