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Youth curfew remains in effect this summer at Millennium Park

Millennium Park youth curfew remains as groups work to prevent summer violence
Millennium Park youth curfew remains as groups work to prevent summer violence 02:52

CHICAGO (CBS) -- With the unofficial start of summer arriving this Memorial Day weekend, old policies and new programs are underway at Millennium Park – where large youth gatherings have sometimes turned violent in recent years – to keep kids safe this year.

Lake Michigan beaches reopening to swimmers and Buckingham fountain turning back on are two signature staples of Chicago summers, but unfortunately so is an uptick in youth violence, meaning keeping temperatures cool and kids occupied is once again on the front burner for city leaders.

Last April, a 16-year-old girl was taken to the hospital with minor injuries after a fight broke out as a large group of young people gathered at Millennium Park.

In May 2022, on a hot Saturday night, 16-year-old Seandell Holliday was shot and killed just steps from the Bean in Millennium Park. Holliday had recently told his mentor that his goal was to live to age 21.

"I asked him, 'Why did you write you want to live until 21, past 21?' and he was like, 'Because a lot of kids die in Chicago,'" said Vondale Singleton, founder and CEO of CHAMPS Mentoring.

About three weeks before that shooting, 13 people were arrested, and one gun was recovered, after warm weather brought another rowdy crowd to Millennium Park, with some people jumping on a cab.

Holliday's death prompted then-Mayor Lori Lightfoot to spearhead a "youth escort policy" at Millennium Park between Thursday and Sunday evenings, requiring any visitors under age 18 to be accompanied by an adult who is at least 21 years old.

That policy remains in effect this summer. Mayor Brandon Johnson has voiced opposition to it in the past, as has the American Civil Liberties Union.

Singleton said CHAMPS Mentoring isn't opposed to the youth curfew at Millennium Park, but added "We are trying to figure out ways to keep our young people engaged."

To do that, CHAMPS Mentoring is focusing on engagement within days of summer vacation starting at Chicago Public Schools on June 7.

"How do we strategically put things together as early as Memorial Day, which we know is a deadly week in Chicago?" Singleton said. "We are planning what we call 'Chicago Peace Week,' and a march on June 8th, and an opportunity fair after the march."

As the heat of summer intersects with the end of school, finding ways to engage young people – an annual struggle in Chicago – resumes with restrictions at Millennium Park and all hands on deck.

"It's a lot of concern, and rightfully so, based upon this historical and empirical data," Singleton said.

The ACLU said they still oppose the restrictions on youths visiting Millennium Park without adult supervision on weekends. Johnson's office did not immediately respond when asked if he still opposes the measure.

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