Inside Chicago’s street takeover scene, the latest on the R. Kelly trial and more in your Chicago news roundup

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

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Passengers hang out the windows of a car as it drifts in circles during a takeover in a South Side intersection, Friday night, July 29, 2022.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

This afternoon will be mostly sunny with a high near 75 degrees. Tonight will be mostly clear with a low near 60. Tomorrow will be mostly sunny with a high near 82. Sunday will be partly sunny with a chance of showers and a high near 87.

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Afternoon Edition

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Top story

Chicago street takeovers: They’re secret, dangerous, illegal — and have a devoted following

The Dodge Charger revved its V8 Hemi engine, the deep rumble echoing in the parking lot of Ford City Mall as smoke poured from the back tires.

Draco hit the gas and turned the wheel, sending the Charger spinning — or drifting — in a tight circle to applause and cheers from more than 100 people.

“It’s an adrenaline — it’s hard to explain — but you feel free in the moment,” said Draco, the name that the 21-year-old uses on the circuit of street drifters. “You know, it’s one of the few times where I feel I am in control of my destiny.”

Sun-Times reporter Manny Ramos and photographer Ashlee Rezin spent several weekends at these meets, which have long drawn complaints about the noise and the disruption and the danger.

They are often organized in minutes through a social network that taps into the culture of street racing. Many times, people leaving a meet broken up by police will drive around until getting the coordinates of another meet that same night.

And despite a recent crackdown that could cost participants their cars, there is no shortage of drivers or spectators.

Ramos and Rezin have more from their weekends at Chicago meets here.

More news you need

  1. Prosecution witness Lisa Van Allen, the ex-girlfriend of R. Kelly who has been among his most visible critics for years, broke down on the witness stand today during a flurry of barbed questions from Kelly’s lawyer. Andy Grimm and Jon Seidel have the full details from the trial, which today marked the end of its second week.
  2. Much of the prosecution’s case during the first two weeks of R. Kelly’s trial has focused on a 26-minute, 39-second video tape that allegedly shows Kelly sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl. Former Sun-Times pop music critic Jim DeRogatis recounts the day in 2000 when an anonymous source mailed him the tape — and what happened after — here.
  3. Nearly two weeks after her feet were severed in a boating accident at the “Playpen” in downtown Chicago, Lana Batochir expects to be discharged from the hospital by the end of the week. In a video released from her hospital bed, Batochir said she hasn’t seen her children since the accident, nor has she told her 6-year-old daughter yet that both her legs were amputated below the knee.
  4. A sign declaring a Lake View church’s unwavering support for abortion rights was damaged Wednesday by two people throwing rocks. Video of the incident, captured by a neighbor, shows one of the rock throwers yelling: “I sent a message.”
  5. Tenants from a troubled South Side building have filed a lawsuit in Cook County circuit court, seeking monetary compensation for poor living conditions at the Ellis Lakeview Apartments the past three years. Three residents who live at the apartment complex filed the lawsuit yesterday after living with mold, rodents and plumbing issues.
  6. Tributes are pouring out for Harold Lucas, a beloved Bronzeville organizer, activist and historian who has died at 79. “Harold was one of the freedom fighters,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson said of Lucas.
  7. A collection of 600 vintage license plates and city vehicle tags from the early 20th century were put up for auction this week. The “holy grail” among the collection: what is believed to be the first automobile license plate issued in Illinois in 1904.
  8. Business incubator E.G. Woode has opened its first small-business hub on the South Side of Chicago to house four Black-owned businesses. Yesterday, the organization held a ribbon cutting ceremony on the new property in Englewood, where Powell’s Barbershop, consignment shop Marie|Wesley, Momentum Coffee and design firm where Beehyyve will operate.
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A bright one

At El Paseo Community Garden in East Pilsen, neighbors connect with nature, each other

El Paseo Community Garden in East Pilsen runs the length of a city block, between Cullerton and 21st streets.

It didn’t always look so green. Much of the land was once a “brownfield,” with high levels of lead contamination. Today, it’s home to more than 20 vegetable beds, a prairie with native plants, a permaculture site, beekeping and community classes and gatherings.

The change didn’t happen overnight. El Paseo Garden has been around since 2009 — around the time environmental activists and residents in Pilsen were organizing against pollution in their community. Much of that advocacy called for the cleanup of toxic waste left by an old metal smelter.

Some community residents also wanted a small piece of land to garden — and got it.

El Paseo Community Garden.

El Paseo Community Garden.

Maggie Sivit/WBEZ

The original space has been expanded with help from Neighbor Space, a not-for-profit urban land trust for community gardens that helped secure the land and provides financial management support, technical expertise and access to resources.

Paula and Antonio Acevedo have been volunteering at the garden for more than 10 years. They took over as co-directors in 2015, when the founders left. They’ve taken on projects including two murals and adding solar energy in the garden, a beekeeping program and a permaculture site.

“This is community,” Paula Acevedo says. “Not a sterile park that could just be in any part of the city. We want it to really identify and show the community, the culture.”

WBEZ’s Adriana Cardona-Maguigad has more on the garden here.

From the press box

Your daily question ☕

What’s it like to own and raise a dog in Chicago?

Send us an email at newsletters@suntimes.com and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday, we asked you: If you could become an alderperson for a day, what’s the first thing you’d do for your ward?

Here’s what some of you said…

“Repave the streets because they’re in horrible shape.” — Glinda North

“I would put money back in programs and public schools to prevent future crime. Not in more police force. Especially in Little Village. ... Why can’t Little Village have better streets, sidewalks and street cleaning?” — Arturo E De León

“I would build tiny houses for the homeless and provide them the services they need. I would build tiny houses that are similar to what Detroit has if you know what I mean.” — Aidan Hughes

“Encourage businesses to be in the neighborhood. Too many empty storefronts.” — Jackie Waldhier

“Pave streets, community safety committees, try to lower property taxes, eliminate red light cams, parks committee, ward night.” — Greg Najarian

“Connect with the constituents. Seems like once in office for a bit, you take your voters for granted. Get out and see what people need; a survey can go a long way.” — Carlos Ocasio

“Visit it and survey people to find out what are the most pressing needs.” — Hector L. Torregrosa-Ramos

Thanks for reading the Chicago Afternoon Edition. Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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