Hairston, Boyd try to calm HP residents

Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) and Chicago Police 2nd District Cmdr. Dion Boyd meet with residents of Ridgewood Court, the street that was vandalized Halloween night, as well as other neighborhood residents. The meeting was held at Augustana Lutheran Church, 5500 S. Woodlawn Ave., on Saturday morning. (Photo by Spencer Bibbs)

Staff Writer

Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) and Chicago Police Second District Commander Dion Boyd spoke at an emotionally charged Saturday morning meeting at Augustana Lutheran Church, to residents living primarily around Ridgeway Court who were affected by the widespread violence that occurred for the third consecutive Halloween in Downtown Hyde Park.

Late Friday evening, a representative from Hairston’s office told the Herald no meeting location or date had yet been confirmed. Neither Hairston nor Boyd returned numerous attempts to contact them after Halloween and again after the community meeting.

According to a person who attended Saturday’s meeting, Hairston explained that the events for children and teens were a preemptive measure, done cognizant of the number of teenagers who were already planning on coming to Downtown Hyde Park, rather than events that contributed to precipitating the violence.

The person who attended the meeting said Boyd estimated 10,000 teenagers came to Hyde Park; South East Chicago Commission executive director Diane Burnham estimated around half of that. Residents were asked to send video and other evidence to authorities.

The Chicago Police Department has confirmed that 11 juveniles and one adult were arrested and charged with public peace violations overnight on Halloween. Those arrested were observed throwing eggs, golf balls and punches.

The evening had gotten off to a calm start, with an afternoon of trick-or-treating for children on 53rd Street and a party for teenagers at The Promontory, 5311 S. Lake Park Ave. W.; both activities were conceived as an attempt to prevent the recurrence of disorder that plagued 2016 and 2017.

After 7 p.m., however, things started to turn ugly. Explosion-like sounds were heard. Youths ran up and down Lake Park Avenue, stopping traffic and beating on cars. Throughout the night, police attempted to disperse the group. Residents watched from apartment windows as fights broke out on their doorsteps.

Vehicles parked along Ridgewood Court and Kenwood and Kimbark avenues had windows shattered, and police confirmed that at least two cars had fires set inside them.

Mark Henderson had taken his daughters to the children’s event on 53rd Street. He said he saw teenagers slip around the barricades, and, a little after 7 p.m., he said hundreds of teens were running toward them.

“It was all I could do to grab my kids and run to hide behind something so we wouldn’t get trampled,” he said. “My younger daughter was completely traumatized, crying and shaking.”

Sarah Diwan said she saw crowds of teens running up Ridgewood Court between 54th and 55th streets, some of them actually on top of vehicles and some carrying what looked like lit fireworks. She said one person threw a device toward her house. The resulting explosion broke a window and knocked a painting from the wall, she said.

Two University of Chicago (U. of C.) students were robbed. The first was walking at 5550 S. University Ave. at 10:30 p.m. when a group of suspects struck the victim with their fists and stole his wallet, cell phone and keys. The suspects fled southbound and battered another victim walking at 1115 E. 56th St. The first victim was not injured, but the second was taken to the U. of C. Medical Center emergency room.

University spokeswoman Marielle Sainvilus said the UCPD worked closely with the Chicago Police to increase staffing and patrol units on campus and in the UCPD coverage area. She said UCPD officers in the area immediately responded to the reported on-campus incidents involving students, which lead to the detainment and arrest of several juvenile offenders.

The UCPD also confirmed an armed robbery at 9:20 p.m. at 1616 E. 56th St., where a victim struggled with three suspects who punched him and demanded property before one of the suspects displayed a handgun. They took his iPhone and a silver chain before fleeing in different directions; the victim declined medical attention.

At 10 p.m., a group of suspects robbed a victim walking at 1215 E. Hyde Park Blvd., punching him while taking his wallet and cell phone before fleeing westbound.

The disorder followed a concerted effort by Hyde Park–Kenwood leaders to avert the troubles of previous years. The civic groups had planned activities catering to all ages: “Treatin’ on 53rd” offered the younger crowd an opportunity to parade along the street and collect candy from the merchants; the “Teen Halloween on 53rd Street,” hosted by The Promontory, was supposed to be a safe space for South Side high schoolers.

The Promontory sponsors said they felt their event was a success despite the chaos that marred the streets outside. They said they didn’t reach capacity.

And “Treatin’ on 53rd” seemed to have gotten the day’s events off to a happy and calm start, with both parents and children enjoying the weather and the activities.

Concerns across social media and reported threats were so great Friday night that the University of Chicago said its Department of Safety and Security was monitoring the situation with the city and Chicago Police and had increased its patrol staffing and presence in the area. The email encouraged taking the threat of violence into consideration when planning for the evening.

Violence did not, however, break out Friday night.

Another community meeting is planned for Wednesday, Nov. 7, at 7 p.m. at University Church, 5655 S. University Ave.

Herald photographers Spencer Bibbs and Marc Monaghan contributed to this report.