Lightfoot preaches tough love, parental responsibility heading into Memorial Day weekend

“I want our kids to enjoy safe spaces all over this city. I want us to continue to work to create those safe spaces all over our city. But it starts in the home,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.

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Mayor Lightfoot speaks at a press conference discussing Chicago’s multi-faceted approach to public safety and highlight opportunities for young people this summer at Holstein Park Fieldhouse Gymnasium. Friday, May 27, 2022.

Mayor Lightfoot on Friday highlighted opportunities for young people this summer during a news conference at the Holstein Park Fieldhouse Gymnasium.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Friday kicked off what she hopes will be a safe and fun-filled Memorial Day weekend with a welcoming yet tough-love message to young people and their parents.

Young people of all ages, races and ethnicities are welcome in every Chicago neighborhood — downtown included — as long as they conduct themselves responsibly with respect for people and property, the mayor said.

And adults have a responsibility to model and reinforce that conduct by knowing where their children are, accompanying them whenever possible, and calling and texting to keep tabs on their kids when they can’t.

“That’s where the challenge is. We can’t just offload our children and hope for the best. That’s where the challenge comes,” the mayor said.

“I want our kids to enjoy safe spaces all over this city. I want us to continue to work to create those safe spaces all over our city. But it starts in the home. And it starts with responsibility — of the parents, the guardians and the caring adults — to make sure that they’re doing what all of our parents did: Which is to set firm, clear rules on conduct. ... Parents, you’ve got to instill that message and drive it home to your children.”

Earlier this week, a divided City Council agreed to strengthen Chicago’s seldom-enforced curfew law — to 10 p.m. instead of 11 p.m. for young people under 18 instead of 17 — in a desperate attempt to stop an outbreak of youth violence.

The curfew crackdown is a companion to Lightfoot’s weekend ban on unaccompanied minors at Millennium Park starting at 6 p.m. every Thursday and continuing through Sunday.

During Friday’s cast-of-thousands news conference at Holstein Park Fieldhouse, 2200 N. Oakley Ave., Lightfoot stressed the goal is not to keep young people out of the downtown area.

“Our children are welcome everywhere. Anywhere they want to be. ... We shouldn’t and cannot be afraid and condemning of Black and Brown kids coming downtown. It’s their city, too. We don’t act that way when white kids come downtown en masse,” she said.

“The issue is not that they come downtown. Not that they’re coming in big groups. The issue is if the behavior is one that recognizes and respects people, property and spaces.”

The mayor’s mantra about parental responsibility was underscored by Joseph Williams, a father of five Chicago Public School students and the founder of Mr. Dad’s Father’s Club.

The nonprofit’s goal is to get fathers “actively involved” in the lives of their children, even if it takes “pulling men off the streets,” as Williams put it.

“We should know where our children are going this weekend going into the summer. We’ve got to make sure that we hold our children accountable but also tell ’em what our expectations are as parents. ... If we want ’em in by a certain time, it should be just that,” Williams said.

“Believe me, I understand that there are so many parents that work two and three jobs just to make ends meet. But even when we’re doing that, we have to make sure we’re still being accountable for our children. That we’re at least giving ’em a simple text or call to know where they are. We gotta just make sure our children are safe.”

Lightfoot urged young people and their parents to download the My Chi My Future app to access opportunities “literally by the hundreds” for jobs, arts, recreation and education for young people this summer.

Enter your ZIP code and a menu of options is laid out before you. There’s even a chance to win a four-day pass to Lollapalooza for those who sign up.

Weekend programs in 15 high-crime neighborhoods targeted for the city’s “whole-of-government” approach — including music-and-game-filled “kickbacks” with DJs that have already served 12,000 young people — will be held later into the night to fill gaps pinpointed in conversations with young people in those neighborhoods.

“We need to be present — with our resources, with our community partners — at times on Friday and Saturday night when they’re needed most,” Lightfoot said.

With days off canceled as always, Chicago Police Supt. David Brown was deliberately vague about the numbers of additional police officers assigned to work this weekend.

He would only say the safety plan for Memorial Day weekend includes foot, bike and roving patrols; traffic safety, DUI saturation and carjacking task force missions; and gang and gun and organized retail theft investigations.

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