UPDATE May 25, 2022 — In a vote of 30-19, Chicago City Council passes Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s ordinance to extend and expand a citywide curfew for youth. Under the ordinance, the curfew will begin at 10:00 p.m. — instead of the previous 11:00 p.m. time — every day. It also includes minors under age 18. Previously, the curfew applied to minors ages 12-16. For children ages 12 and younger, their curfew will stay the same: 8:30 p.m. on Sundays through Thursdays and 9:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Curfew exceptions will be granted to youth coming from ticketed or sponsored events. They must be able to show documentation of their attendance if asked by authorities.

ORIGINAL STORY — Dovontae Richardson didn’t go downtown to Millennium Park on Saturday evening, but he did watch everything unfold on social media. 

That day, hundreds of Chicago teenagers, mostly Black, flocked to the park for a meetup they call “trends.” It’s a popular teen-led social media linkup that’s been going on for a while now, where someone creates and posts flyers on platforms like Snapchat or Instagram, detailing when and where the next big meetup will be. 

“Anybody can start one. You can start one,” the Dunbar High School senior said. He’s also an organizer with GoodKids MadCity youth activism group. “The trends only happen when they feel good. When it feel good outside, trend downtown Millennium Park. Anywhere downtown, you know all them kids coming down there.”

Dovontae used to go to trends two or three years ago. But he doesn’t anymore, he said, because arguments at these events could quickly escalate to fights or gunfire. Trends attract youth from all over the city, many who may be from rival gangs or schools or sides of the city. If two people bumped heads in-person previously or over the internet, he said, things will only go up from there.

On Saturday, as crowds of teens met in the park, videos hit social media of everyone hanging out. Dovontae watched them on Instagram. But then a fight broke out. Sixteen-year-old Gary Comer College Prep student Seandell Holliday was fatally shot. Soon, social media filled with videos of the scene.

According to the Chicago Police Department (CPD), 26 minors and four adults were arrested on Saturday. Of those arrests, five were for guns, with seven guns recovered, police said.  A 17-year-old boy is facing three charges of second-degree murder, aggravated battery/laser DVC on firearm and aggravated UUW/Person/Loaded firearm in the Holliday case. The TRiiBE has reached out to CPD to confirm the final tally of arrests from that day.

At a Monday morning press conference, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a multi-step plan to ensure that Millennium Park, and other public spaces across the city, are safe.

Lightfoot said she’s implementing a “time, place and manner” restriction that, beginning this week, bans youth under 18 from going to Millennium Park after 6:00 p.m., Thursday through Sunday, unless accompanied by an adult. She said she’s signing an executive order to push back the current citywide curfew of 11:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. seven days a week. Both measures, she said, will remain in place for the foreseeable future.

“I feel a way because everybody ain’t doing what them kids doing, so she shouldn’t put a curfew on Millennium Park. But at the same time, we gotta do it to protect our city,” Dovontae said. “It ain’t ‘gon work. Kids still ‘gon do what they want to do. We don’t listen to the police no more.”

Asked why his generation doesn’t listen to the police, Dovontae gave a gut-wrenching answer.

“We feel like they against us too. They know they against us. They try to hide it. It ain’t every police officer, but we know they against us,” he explained. “We know they trying to wipe us out too. We listen to them, try our best to listen to them, but why would we listen to a person that’s ‘gon kill us anyway?”

At Monday’s press conference, media members repeatedly asked Lightfoot about the consequences of violating the curfew, but she wouldn’t give a straight answer. In fact, she flipped the question back onto reporters, asking them why they insist on young people being arrested. 

Instead, Lightfoot said the goal of these measures is to teach and enforce basic rules of respect and decency. CPD will partner with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to explain the new policies and procedures to families. CPD will also “exhaust all measures” to disperse any youth in violation of the Millennium Park restrictions or citywide curfew before making any arrests, she said.

However, on Wednesday, WBEZ reported that Lightfoot’s executive order directs police to hold noncompliant teens in custody, which has prompted the ACLU of Illinois to consider legal action. Additionally, CBS News reported that the mayor doesn’t have the power to change the citywide curfew with an executive order. The Chicago City Council’s Public Safety Committee will consider Lightfoot’s proposal at an upcoming meeting on Friday, May 20. According to WTTW, the committee will consider a revised ordinance that hasn’t been released on the city clerk’s website just yet. 

Here is a copy of the initial executive order released by Mayor Lori Lightfoot. 

At the Chicago City Council’s Public Safety Committee meeting on May 20, Mayor Lori Lightfoot will introduce a revised ordinance for consideration.

“The last place that any of us want to be is enforcement,” Lightfoot said Monday when asked if parents and guardians will get in trouble if their children break the curfew or are caught with a gun. But past actions by the mayor and CPD disprove that assertion.

In Chicago, it seems politicians see no other way to curb violence other than by heavily policing Black bodies. Take a look back at the past three years of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s tenure. 

In any particular political rhetoric or executive order regarding heightened enforcement to reduce crime in the city, there’s this coded, anti-Black language that, if violated, naturally results in detainment or arrest in some form or fashion. 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, teens were banned from hanging out at the Water Tower Place between 4:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays unless accompanied by an adult. This action came after reports of large gatherings of predominantly Black youth in the area and people being attacked by a handful of them.

And during the pandemic, there were bans on access to lakefront and neighborhood parks, enforced through a stay-at-home order. We also saw Black gatherings, such as a West Side house party, blamed for the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on the community. 

Remember when Lightfoot stood in a Garfield Park neighborhood where kids were playing, and threatened to treat its residents “like criminals” if they continued throwing parties and hosting gatherings?

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There’s also been curfews on liquor sales after seeing groups of Black people congregating outside of neighborhood stores, and on nighttime entry into downtown Chicago, after early protests in the 2020 summer uprisings resulted in property damage, looting and gunshots. The mayor raised bridges in downtown Chicago during that time to further restrict access from people who don’t live in the area.

“The coded language, none of it is new,” Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx told The TRiiBE in an interview on Wednesday. “The fact of the matter that after the murder of George Floyd, and after people took to the streets, and the credible heavy emphasis on the destruction of property, and who was destroying the property, and what that looks like, the visuals of what that looked like for folks, there was a narrative that was set.”

The narrative is playing out nationwide now in mainstream media. Do a quick Google search, and multiple articles and opinion pieces will pop on in news outlets with headlines such as: “Crime and chaos downtown and beyond are keeping tourists away from Chicago, and experts say something has to change” and “Opinion | Chicago’s Magnificent Mile retail stretch has fallen.”

“I watched a commercial for one of the candidates running for governor on the Republican side that has clips that shows young Black people running in and out of stores. That is the image that some folks want you to believe is what Chicago looks like,” Foxx explained. “And so everything in the last two years has been about what happens to the economic recovery of the city that is rooted in the Central Business District.”

According to Foxx, the Cook County State’s Attorney Office does not prosecute or enforce curfew violators. As the city continues to struggle with staggering violence numbers, the CCSO’s priority, she said, is going to be addressing violence in communities. 

According to WBEZ, a minor in violation of Lightfoot’s executive order would stay in police custody until a parent, guardian or other adult with legal care picks them up. It’s still unclear whether they would face charges.

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A 2021 report by The Sentencing Project showed that Black youth are more than four times as likely to be detained or committed in juvenile facilities as white youth. 

“Anytime we introduce a young person to the criminal justice system, it has a long lasting impact. We have to be cautious of when we have that level of intervention,” Foxx said. “Enough history, enough data has shown that the earlier the intervention of young people into the criminal justice system, the greater the likelihood that they have long lasting entanglement in the same system.”

Although Dovontae didn’t attend the Millennium Park trends on Saturday, he knew someone who did. That person, he said, was arrested and was still in custody on Wednesday. He didn’t feel comfortable speaking too much about it. So The TRiiBE has reached out to the CCSO for information on who remains in custody, along with their charges.

“Kids ‘gon be kids. They could’ve handled it totally better though,” Dovontae said about the arrests. “When I used to go down there, and it was time to go, police would just sit there. But then they’ll try to get aggressive, or when they got somebody, they gotta get aggressive.”

Dovontae said he understands why police officers can get frustrated with youth. A lot of times, they have to repeat themselves multiple times in order to get some youth to follow their demands.

“But eventually, they ‘gon listen. You don’t gotta touch them or nothing. You ain’t gotta talk crazy, but move them,” Dovontae said, referring to the bike patrol tactics police have used to peacefully move crowds during parades. “At the parade, you know how they come in a full pack and they just ride they bikes down, moving the crowd? They could’ve did that.”

Shoneice Reynolds is a 30-something-year-old mother of two CPS kids: a 24-year-old college student and 18-year-old Asean Johnson, a senior at Hubbard High School. She also has custody of her little sister Sara Wofford, an 18-year-old student at Pathways In Education. 

Asean wanted to go to the Millennium Park trends on Saturday to celebrate with Sara and some of his track-and-field teammates, who’d just broken Hubbard’s relay race record, but Reynolds didn’t let him. With the heavy police presence in downtown Chicago these days, she was afraid of what could happen to him if he had an encounter with police.

“I grew up here in Chicago. And we knew then that we couldn’t go downtown 20 years ago,” Reynolds said. “Downtown has always been heavy policed and protected, and not for people of color, particularly Black people. And I’m just going to be blunt and say that. We’ve never really been welcomed downtown.”

Asean, a three-sport athlete and International Baccalaureate (IB) student, rocks twist-outs in his hair and typically wears a hoodie. Although his mother is proud of his 4C hair and style of dress, she knows that white people will stereotype him as a thug.

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“When I did hear about the shooting, yes, it did break my heart. I’m not numb to those things. I don’t think I can develop a numbness to it.” Reynolds explained. “But I don’t think the answer is the restriction on downtown. I don’t think the mayor should be using the resources for that. I feel like we need more inner-city programs. We need to actually focus on social and emotional aspects of what’s happening with our teens.”

As for the proposal to move the citywide curfew to 10:00 p.m., Reynolds said that will only lead to more stop-and-frisk actions from police. It’s unfair to youth, she said, thinking of her son who typically doesn’t get home from team practices and other commitments after school until 7:00 p.m. or 8:00 p.m. When he got home from practice the other day, he wanted to take a walk to stretch out his legs. Her son and little sister went for a walk along the Dan Ryan Woods trail.

“They came back about 9:40 p.m. And the only thing I could think of was, please be back before 10:00 p.m. before they stop you and say something to you,” Reynolds said.

Both Reynolds and Foxx, a mother with four teenagers in her home, mentioned that there aren’t many places for Black teens in Chicago to be themselves and feel welcomed. Their kids enjoy going to hang out with their friends at places like Sky Zone in the south suburbs. But now, they say, there are restrictions there after reports of fights breaking out.

At a Wednesday afternoon press conference at the Harold Washington Library’s YOUmedia Center, Lightfoot and First Lady Amy Eshleman announced the drop of a new mobile app for Chicago teenagers called My CHI. My Future. The mobile app was created to easily connect teens to programming, events, jobs and activities citywide and it took about two years to develop. 

“I got a 14-year-old, who I never see other than a reflection from the glow of the light of her smartphone. So I know this is important to you and a way in which you communicate with one another. We want My CHI. My Future’s. experiences, resources, and jobs more readily available to you at your fingertips,” Lightfoot said during Wednesday’s press conference.

Teens can download the app on the iOS App Store and the Google Play store. Once downloaded, teenagers can create customizable profiles and homepages and locate and filter activities based on their interests, whether in their neighborhoods or citywide. Teens and young adults between ages 16 and 24 that download the app will be eligible to enter a weekly drawing to win free Lollapalooza tickets beginning May 23 through July 3. Teens who were present at Wednesday’s announcement and downloaded the app received free tickets to Lollapalooza. 

“[The] My CHI. My Future. app is much like YOUmedia. It’s a safe space where people can connect with each other, their interests, find opportunities and try new things out and share their passions with their friends,” Eshleman said. 

Days before at Monday’s press conference, other city leaders also pointed to applications for city jobs and various youth service programs, where teens can earn up to $1,800 during the summer months.

Dovontae said him and his friends, and many others in their age group, like going downtown and other places around the city because it’s a chance to link up with people they haven’t seen in a while. They like to walk around, have fun and talk to everyone.

“I say the community centers where we can be chillin at, like, a safe community center, it’s fun but we just need the resources. The stuff y’all think ain’t fun, really [is] fun,” Dovontae said. “We need a community building where we can come and chill and clown and have fun. Some people gotta drive from 70-something to get to 55th just to get to a center, when it should be one on they block. That’s how I feel about that situation.”

is the editor-in-chief of The TRiiBE and a 2023-2024 John S. Knight Journalism Fellow.
is a multimedia reporter for The TRiiBE.