Downtown traffic was at a standstill Wednesday night as police blocked streets for the fourth straight night of car caravans celebrating Mexican Independence Day.
The city has been blocking streets around downtown and Little Village since Sunday night, when car caravans began roaming the city in lieu of the annual Mexican Independence Day parade, which was slated for Saturday but canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Police blocked off several streets Wednesday night, but Lake Shore Drive remained open, according to the Office of Emergency Management. Lake Shore Drive, however, could be seen in total gridlock near Buckingham Fountain late Wednesday, with people out of their cars and celebrating in the roadway.
Dancing and celebrating in the southbound lane of Lake Shore Drive by Buckingham Fountain an entire band is playing music as folks dance in the streets. #Chicago #MexicanIndependenceDay pic.twitter.com/fMUCQk5Y6p— Tyler LaRiviere (@TylerLaRiviere) September 17, 2020
Carlos Sanchez was in one of the few cars downtown with a Mexican flag sticking out of the window. He said he had to “fake being white” to get through the police barricade. Him and his friend hid his flag and played Taylor Swift.
“We didn’t show any pride or anything,” Sanchez said. “There’s no one here as you can tell, we’re one of the only ones here.”
Sanchez, 19, said he was in a group chat with 1,300 people. They planned to park their cars on State Street and play music.
“We’re about to leave because nobody else could get through,” Sanchez said after taking a picture with a police barricade in the background.
Officers blocked access to the bridges in downtown, allowing only some motorists through. They also blocked access to Michigan Avenue from Wacker Drive.
The city’s rolling street closures were “standard practice” for large caravans of cars, to “ensure public safety and prevent traffic congestion, OEMC spokesperson Mary May said in a statement.
However, May also noted that police “received intelligence regarding possible disrupters who sought to hijack the integrity of Mexican Independence Day celebrations and caravans.”
“As a result, OEMC enacted additional short-term street closures in various neighborhoods as part of the City’s all-hands-on-deck efforts to provide safety to Chicago’s communities and the businesses that serve and employ them,” May said.
Chicago police did not immediately provide any additional details about the closures, but said they had not received reports of any “disrupters” Wednesday evening.
Edgar Hernandez, a lifelong Little Village resident, said Tuesday this is the first year he’s seen police block off streets for the car caravans.
“We do this every year — it’s like a tradition — we go downtown, meet up on Pulaski or wherever you meet up, and then everyone just leaves,” Hernandez said. “We’re just cruising, I don’t feel like we’re up to no good. We’re just literally cruising, beeping, ‘Viva Mexico,’ and that’s it.”