CITY TAKES NEW STEPS TO DE­TER GATH­ER­INGS AT MON­TROSE BEACH

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY TOM SCHUBA, STAFF RE­PORTER tschuba@sun­times.com | @TomSchuba

Af­ter Mayor Lori Light­foot slammed rev­el­ers for ig­nor­ing city rules and so­cial dis­tanc­ing guide­lines and crashed their party Sat­ur­day at Mon­trose Beach, of­fi­cials quickly in­stalled new fenc­ing and lim­ited ve­hi­cle ac­cess to the area to pre­vent oth­ers from gath­er­ing on the closed-off lake­front.

On Sun­day, Chicago Park Dis­trict spokes­woman Michele Lemons said the fence along the lakeshore was specif­i­cally put in place Sat­ur­day night “to de­ter large gath­er­ing like those ob­served yes­ter­day.”

The move came af­ter Light­foot tweeted a stark warn­ing Sat­ur­day evening along­side a photo that showed dozens of peo­ple con­gre­gat­ing on a grassy patch near the wa­ter.

“It’s called a pan­demic, peo­ple,” Light­foot wrote. “This reck­less be­hav­ior on Mon­trose Beach is what will cause us to shut down the parks and lake­front. Don’t make us take steps back­wards.”

A short time later, Light­foot again took to Twit­ter and an­nounced she had per­son­ally “stopped by the gath­er­ing.”

“It’s be­ing ad­dressed,” she added shortly be­fore Park Dis­trict em­ploy­ees be­gan in­stalling the new fenc­ing.

Dur­ing a news con­fer­ence Sun­day, Gov. J.B. Pritzker called the im­age of the lake­front gath­er­ing “hor­ri­fy­ing.”

“It’s a de­mon­stra­tion of what we’ve seen in the num­bers, which is that young peo­ple are not tak­ing this as se­ri­ously as they should. And un­for­tu­nately, we see that the num­bers of young peo­ple . . . con­tract­ing COVID-19 have gone way up,” Pritzker said, laud­ing Light­foot and other may­ors who he said “have done the right thing” in the wake of the pan­demic.

A Chicago po­lice spokesman said the de­part­ment wasn’t no­ti­fied of any ci­ta­tions is­sued dur­ing Sat­ur­day’s in­ci­dent. On Sun­day morn­ing, a po­lice SUV was parked near the en­try­way to Mon­trose Har­bor, where a sign read­ing “PARK CLOSED” sat amid a makeshift checkpoint.

Ve­hi­cles at­tempt­ing to drive through the area were re­quired to show a valid har­bor iden­ti­fi­ca­tion card, while oth­ers were turned away. An em­ployee for the Of­fice of Emer­gency Man­age­ment and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions said driv­ers with­out a pass could park their cars else­where and walk to the lake­front area.

“While the lake­front trail is open, Chicago’s beaches and park­land east of Lake Shore Drive re­main closed un­der the Chicago De­part­ment of Pub­lic Health’s ex­ec­u­tive or­der,” said Lemons. “The fenc­ing will re­main in place in­def­i­nitely to re­mind the pub­lic of the re­stric­tions im­ple­mented as part of the city’s on­go­ing COVID re­sponse plan.”

But as a stream of bi­cy­clists and jog­gers zoomed around the park­land west of the lake­front, dozens of peo­ple hung out on the beach un­de­terred. Some basked in the sun, while a few swim­mers waded in the lake to beat the swel­ter­ing mid-morn­ing heat.

Un­like Sat­ur­day’s con­tro­ver­sial gath­er­ing, the beach­go­ers ap­peared to stick within small groups and keep their dis­tance from one an­other.

Fabio Gadaiol, who works in the fi­nan­cial sec­tor and moved to Chicago from Brazil, tossed a Fris­bee with a friend as he chas­tised young peo­ple for gath­er­ing pub­licly in large groups.

“You need to know the balance,” Gadaiol said, com­plain­ing that some peo­ple are ig­nor­ing how their risky ac­tions could im­pact oth­ers.

“It’s not about you. You live in a so­ci­ety.”

IM­AGE FROM TWIT­TER

Mayor Lori Light­foot tweeted a warn­ing about large crowds on Sat­ur­day. On Sun­day, the Chicago Park Dis­trict said a fence along the lakeshore was specif­i­cally put in place Sat­ur­day night “to de­ter large gath­er­ing like those ob­served yes­ter­day.”

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