Street takeovers throughout city devolve into clashes with police, arrests and car impoundment

The illegal street takeovers, organized and fueled by social media, resulted in clashes with police late Friday on the Far South Side, but the mayhem ended up in the heart of downtown.

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A man climbs onto a Chicago Police Department vehicle as officials attempted to break up a street takeover, where hundreds gathered to watch cars drift in circles at West 119th and South Halsted streets on the Far South Side, Friday night, Aug. 26, 2022.

A man climbs onto a Chicago Police Department vehicle as officials attempted to break up a street takeover, where hundreds gathered to watch cars drift in circles at West 119th and South Halsted streets on the Far South Side, Friday night, Aug. 26, 2022.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

A cross-country street takeover that allegedly attracted drifters from 14 states converged downtown overnight, capping a hectic evening for Chicago’s underground car scene that started with spectators clashing with police officers late Friday at a Far South Side intersection.

By early Saturday, two young men were arrested and one of them had their car impounded — thought to be the first purported drifter to lose a vehicle under a new city ordinance aimed at curbing such street stunts. 

Shortly before midnight, the intersection of 119th and Halsted streets was blocked off by cars and set up as the designated pit for cars to take turns drifting in the intersection. Buses in both directions of 119th waited as people cheered on the drifters, with one man climbing the streetlight pole for a better view.

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Police tried to break up the gathering after about 15 minutes, but a Sun-Times reporter and photographer saw officers were met with a hostile response. Spectators started throwing objects at them as the officers entered the pit trying to record video of the car spinning in the center of the intersection.

People watch as a car drifts in circles during a takeover at West 119th and South Halsted streets on the Far South Side, Friday night, Aug. 26, 2022.

People watch as a car drifts in circles during a takeover at West 119th and South Halsted streets on the Far South Side, Friday night, Aug. 26, 2022.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Bottles were thrown, forcing the officers to retreat. At one point, a police officer unholstered his firearm. It was unclear if he pointed at anyone, but it prompted people to run away.

A man from the crowd also climbed onto an unmarked police car and jumped on its windshield, smashing the glass.

The windshield was shattered after a man climbed onto a Chicago Police Department vehicle as officials were attempting to break up a street takeover, where hundreds gathered to watch cars drift in circles at West 119th and South Halsted streets on the Far South Side, Friday night, Aug. 26, 2022.

The windshield was shattered after a man climbed onto a Chicago Police Department vehicle as officials were attempting to break up a street takeover, where hundreds gathered to watch cars drift in circles at West 119th and South Halsted streets on the Far South Side, Friday night, Aug. 26, 2022.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

That drew cheers from many in the crowd, some of whom ran from the scene as dozens more police officers converged on the intersection. 

Cars raced down the street to get away — at one point nearly striking a man who was pulled to safety by an officer who caught him in a bear hug. 

A Chicago Police Department officer pulls a man into a bear hug to save his life when the man was almost struck by a vehicle during a street takeover, where hundreds gathered to watch cars drift in circles at West 119th and South Halsted streets on the Far South Side, Friday night, Aug. 26, 2022.

A Chicago Police Department officer pulls a man into a bear hug to save his life when the man was almost struck by a vehicle during a street takeover, where hundreds gathered to watch cars drift in circles at West 119th and South Halsted streets on the Far South Side, Friday night, Aug. 26, 2022.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Police officials later said they responded to a call for service at the intersection, but didn’t provide details. 

The gathering had been advertised on social media as a “wild” event pitting “Chicago vs. Everybody,” with drivers coming from Detroit, the Bay Area and other parts of the country. The Sun-Times has reported on the burgeoning “takeover” scene that’s powered by coordinated social media campaigns directing hundreds of people to certain intersections within minutes. 

Chicago Police Department officials attempt to break up a street takeover as hundreds gather to watch cars drift in circles at West 119th and South Halsted streets on the Far South Side, Friday night, Aug. 26, 2022.

Chicago Police Department officials attempt to break up a street takeover as hundreds gather to watch cars drift in circles at West 119th and South Halsted streets on the Far South Side, Friday night, Aug. 26, 2022.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

After the chaos at 119th and Halsted, another takeover went on shortly after at the intersection of 25th Street and Martin Luther King Drive. That’s where two 18-year-old men were detained and charged, but the offenses weren’t directly related to street racing — misdemeanor counts of reckless conduct, police said. 

But one of the men was cited for a host of traffic violations and his car was impounded, in what’s likely the first time the city has seized a vehicle under a new City Council ordinance authorizing police to impound cars involved in street stunts. Officials and takeover attendees have said they’re not aware of anyone else losing a vehicle under the ordinance that was passed last month. 

The takeover mayhem didn’t end there, though. Videos circulating on social media from early Saturday showed cars dominating the intersections of Wacker and Columbus drives downtown, with cars spinning in tight circles, leaving tire tracks on the street and smoke wafting through the air.

Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd), who has championed the anti-drifting ordinance, previously said “we have seen some improvement downtown… We can’t directly correlate that to passage of the ordinance, but I do think word has gotten out that Chicago now has a very tough ordinance on the books.”

A participant carries a life-size cardboard cutout of Mayor Lori Lightfoot as cars drift in circles during a takeover at West 119th and South Halsted streets on the Far South Side, Friday night, Aug. 26, 2022.

A participant carries a life-size cardboard cutout of Mayor Lori Lightfoot as cars drift in circles during a takeover at West 119th and South Halsted streets on the Far South Side, Friday night, Aug. 26, 2022.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Participants and spectators harrass Chicago Police Department officials attempting to break up a street takeover as hundreds gathered to watch cars drift in circles at West 119th and South Halsted streets on the Far South Side, Friday night, Aug. 26, 2022.

Participants and spectators harass Chicago Police Department officials attempting to break up a street takeover as hundreds gathered to watch cars drift in circles at West 119th and South Halsted streets on the Far South Side, Friday night, Aug. 26, 2022.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

A Chicago Police Department officer unholsters his firearm and argues with participants as officials attempted to break up a street takeover, where hundreds gathered to watch cars drift in circles at West 119th and South Halsted streets on the Far South Side, Friday night, Aug. 26, 2022.

A Chicago Police Department officer unholsters his firearm and argues with participants as officials attempted to break up a street takeover, where hundreds gathered to watch cars drift in circles at West 119th and South Halsted streets on the Far South Side, Friday night, Aug. 26, 2022.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

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