Hundreds march in the Loop to reach out to teens who caused chaos last weekend: ‘People do care about them’

Local leaders lauded Brandon Johnson’s plan to revamp the city’s summer jobs programs and said their message was one of caring for young people they said the city had left behind.

SHARE Hundreds march in the Loop to reach out to teens who caused chaos last weekend: ‘People do care about them’
Hundreds gathered in the Loop Saturday to march in response to the “chaos” caused by groups of youths downtown last weekend.

Hundreds gathered in the Loop Saturday to march in response to the “chaos” caused by groups of youths downtown last weekend.

Violet Miller/Sun-Times

Nearly 400 people, led by local clergy on Saturday, took to the streets of the Loop to offer their response to last weekend’s chaos when hundreds of young people gathered downtown — with some engaging in violent acts and harassment of people on the street.

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The roving groups tied up police resources and two people were shot amid the mayhem. Fifteen people were arrested.

A week later, organizers said their march was aimed at showing the city’s youth that people care about them and that they are ready to offer them opportunities in the hope it will discourage teens from taking part in future social-media fueled takeovers and acting unruly.

Charlie Dates, senior pastor of Salem Baptist Church of Chicago and Progressive Baptist Church, cited community divestment, a gap in educational opportunities and neighborhood violence as examples of the ways some children in the city have been left behind.

“For years now, there’s been a narrative of an evil in our kids,” Dates said. “Chicago refuses to develop its greatest natural resources — our children.”

The march, made up mostly of Black men, stretched from Roosevelt Road to Wacker Drive on Michigan Avenue and ended at the steps in front of the “Red Lilly Tree of Liberty” sculpture.

Charlie Dates, senior pastor of Salem Baptist Church of Chicago and Progressive Baptist Church, speaks to a crowd of hundreds Saturday, after a march he helped organize to show the city’s youth that people cared about them after last weekend’s downtown unrest.

Charlie Dates, senior pastor of Salem Baptist Church of Chicago and Progressive Baptist Church, speaks to a crowd of hundreds Saturday, after a march he helped organize to show the city’s youth that people cared about them after last weekend’s downtown unrest.

Violet Miller/Sun-Times

Lorenzo Beach, 28, said that he was asked to join the gathering by his pastor. As someone who works with young people, he felt it was important “to show the youth that people do care about them, but also that some of the things they’ve been doing as of late, we don’t stand for that.”

Beach runs a weekly mentoring group for youth near his home in Bronzeville where he said he has “seen the struggle” that young people in his and other communities face.

“If they were to see this en masse, maybe they’ll change,” he said.

Lorenzo Beach, 28, bows his head in prayer during a march Saturday in the Loop in response to “chaos” caused by teens in the area the weekend before.

Lorenzo Beach, 28, bows his head in prayer during a march Saturday in the Loop in response to “chaos” caused by teens in the area the weekend before.

Violet Miller/Sun-Times

The police presence at Millennium Park was less heavy Saturday than it was the night before, when the department flooded the area with officers, even as many visitors didn’t seem aware of last weekend’s events or know why so many police were around.

Mayor-elect Brandon Johnson’s newly appointed chief of staff said Friday he had worked with police officials to prepare, including having “additional teams on site, undercover police personnel on site, just a lot more coordination,” after the department was criticized for having appeared to have been caught off-guard.

But Bishop Tavis Grant, national executive director of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and an attendee at the march, said that heavy-handed policing also wasn’t the answer.

“We want police patrol, not police control,” Grant said. “We know that the proper response to this is better resources and public policy that cures some of the greatest ills of our generation, which are poverty, unemployment and inequity in education.”

Instead, he praised Johnson’s vow to double the number of summer jobs available to city teens. It couldn’t be accomplished by the public alone, he added, and said working toward safety will also require the support of businesses and community organizations.

“We cannot allow a generation to be lost.”

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