Chicago imposes ban on young people from downtown on weekends

ByShannon J. Cortes

May 23, 2022

On Friday, the Chicago City Council’s Committee on Public Safety voted 14 to 3 to pass a citywide ordinance imposing a curfew on all minors ages 12 to 17. It is now forbidden for these young people to be on the street, or in any other public place, after 10 p.m. on any day of the week. Additionally, the city will not allow anyone under the age of 18 to enter Millennium Park in the city center after 6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, unless accompanied by an adult.

The new ordinance allows for a few exceptions, including attending a paid concert or other event like the Lollapalooza Summer Music Festival. These events are usually attended by more affluent young people and middle-class tourists, rather than Chicago’s young workers.

The curfew law was introduced by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot after 16-year-old Seandell Holliday was fatally shot in Millennium Park on May 14.

Minors found violating curfew will be subject to arrest by Chicago police, a confrontation that carries the threat of deadly violence if an officer claims to fear for their safety. On the night of May 18, an unarmed 13-year-old boy was shot and seriously injured by Chicago police in an alleged carjacking incident. The child ran away.

Lightfoot claimed the law was intended to protect young people from gun violence. “It gives me no pleasure to impose these rules and restrictions. But having exhausted all other opportunities, all other tools and remedies, we need to take this next step to ensure our jewel of Millennium Park is available and open to everyone,” Lightfoot said when the bans were announced. For the young.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on May 19, 2021. (AP Photo/John O’Connor)

The curfew has been criticized by the American Civil Liberties Union, which issued a statement saying the law will only cause “unnecessary stops and arrests”.

Some city council members also opposed the law. Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, affiliated with the Democratic Socialists of America, said he opposed the measure based on studies that show curfews historically have no effect on reducing criminality. Alderman Ray Lopez, who is challenging Lightfoot in the right-wing 2023 mayoral election, criticized the proposal, pointing out that Chicago already has an 11 p.m. curfew and that in recent years it hasn’t. been enforced with curfew citations dropping from 2,453 in 2018 to 364 in 2021.

In recent years, Chicago has indeed seen an intense increase in violent crime. In 2021, nearly 800 homicides were reported, an increase of about 300 deaths from 2019 and 25 more than in 2020. So far this year, there have been more than 200 shooting deaths.

None of the Democratic officials spoke about the root cause of the gun violence: the economic devastation and declining living standards of the city’s working class, and the decades of Democratic Party privatization and austerity that created a social crisis to which he responded with the police. patrols dispensing deadly violence.

The mayor’s reaction to criminalize young people and use the police to repress them does nothing to prevent violence. On the contrary, the police state measures have only been deployed now that the crisis of working-class youth has spread to affluent downtown neighborhoods and threatens to alienate guests from Chicago’s lucrative tourist industry. .

The vast majority of all Chicago gunshot deaths occur in poor, working-class neighborhoods on the south and west sides of the city. These areas, once home to countless manufacturing and industrial jobs, have been stripped of resources and public services, including massive cuts to education, mental health and social services.

The effects of deindustrialization and the general lack of economic opportunities have deeply affected young people. A 2020 study found that in Chicago, more than 8% of young people between the ages of 16 and 19 were neither in school nor employed. For those aged 20 to 24, more than 20% were unemployed. When looking only at black Chicago residents, who are predominantly working-class, the unemployment rate for the 20-24 age bracket jumps to 38%.

In West Garfield Park, the neighborhood with the most homicides per capita in 2021, with 21.8 murders per 10,000 residents, the median income is just $25,648 per year. Similarly, in neighboring North Lawndale, the area with the highest number of homicides, 44 deaths, the median income is $26,781 per year. The poverty line in Chicago is estimated at around $26,000 a year for a family of four.

A 2020 study from the Northwestern Institute for Policy Research found that in 2019, the median age of a homicide victim was 27, and young people between the ages of 18 and 24 were most likely to be killed. in a violent crime. Young black people between the ages of 18 and 19 were the group most at risk, with a homicide rate of 182.7 per 100,000 population.

Despite the deteriorating level of crisis in many areas, Democratic leaders are stepping up their attack on public education. Last month, parents of Chicago public school students demonstrated outside school headquarters to oppose budget cuts.

Chicago youth demonstrate for teachers (Source: CTU Facebook)

Earlier this month, Forbes magazine announced that the state of Illinois now has twenty billionaires, all of whom live in the Chicago area (except for Democratic Governor JB Pritzker, who officially resides in the state capital Springfield while in office). Resources for social needs are not lacking: schools, jobs, health care and social services or transport infrastructure. Chicago also received $1.9 billion in federal funding for pandemic relief. But the Lightfoot administration gave some $281.5 million to the police for payrolls and $465 million to the JP Morgan Chase bank, paying off the city’s short-term debt.

Damayanti Wallace, co-founder of “GoodKidsMadCity” (GKMC), a Chicago youth organization dedicated to ending violence, spoke with the WSWS and shared his thoughts on the curfew.

“The curfew reinforces the idea that punishment is the only way to produce behavioral change in people and especially young people. I believe it is to target young people in general. Instead of offering resources to young people and giving them the choice of whether or not to be in one place or another, they are automatically punished and restricted.

Regarding the effects of the curfew, Wallace said: “Violence may decrease, it may not. Be that as it may, the fundamental problem is still there. Young people are looking for things to do as they enter adulthood. These curiosities should be encouraged instead of rebuffed.

“Young people need resources. They need to have opportunities and see what the world has to offer otherwise their neighborhood influences, TV shows, music become the only world they know… Chicago is hyper segregated, and poverty is concentrated, black and brown youth are forced to compete for resources and the colonized violence we experience, and the police state further marginalizes us.

GKMC asked the city to pass a “PeaceBook” ordinance that would provide resources for various youth programs in Chicago’s poorest communities. So far, their requests have been ignored by Lightfoot and other city officials.

Wallace concluded by saying that the PeaceBook is only an initial proposal and ultimately young people want freedom from racism, homophobia and capitalism. “Black youth should be able to move freely without restrictions!”

The imposition of the curfew comes after thousands of young people in Chicago went into open struggle against the Democratic Party-dominated city government presiding over the city’s inequality. Hoping to quell more political opposition, like that of the massive George Floyd protests in the summer of 2020, Lightfoot and the ruling class are adopting authoritarian police-state measures. That same summer, the mayor ordered the police to make arbitrary arrests of young people before the July 4 weekend.

Increasingly, young people come into conflict with capitalism and the social misery, including violent crime, that it produces. More and more of these young people are moving politically to the left. We warmly welcome this movement and urge young people to reach out to the working class of all races and earnestly fight for socialist principles. We encourage all young people in Chicago and across the country who agree to join the International Youth and Students for Social Equality.