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Keep Riot Fest Out of Douglas Park, Protesters Tell Aldermen at Meeting

By Stephanie Lulay | June 24, 2015 8:05am
 Sharaya Tindal, restorative justice coordinator at St. Agatha's Catholic Church, holds a sign protesting Riot Fest's move to Douglas Park at a community meeting Tuesday.
Sharaya Tindal, restorative justice coordinator at St. Agatha's Catholic Church, holds a sign protesting Riot Fest's move to Douglas Park at a community meeting Tuesday.
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DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay

NORTH LAWNDALE — New Ald. Michael Scott Jr. (24th) predicted Riot Fest's move to Douglas Park would be a top concern to his new constituents. And at contentious first meeting with the community Tuesday night, neighbors proved him right.

Sporting signs that read "Lawndale is a community, not a commodity" and "A 3-day binge is not an economic development plan," a group of protesters met Scott with a clear message — they don't want Riot Fest in Douglas Park.

The 24th Ward community meeting at the Douglas Park Field House was the first since officials announced Riot Fest would move to Douglas Park in May. Neighboring Ald. George Cardenas (12th), Riot Fest leaders and new Police Cmdr. Francis Valadez joined 200 residents at the meeting Tuesday night.

Stephanie Lulay talks about neighbors' concerns over Riot Fest's move:

While Scott also fielded questions about parking, policing strategies, and violence in the ward, a number of questions from neighbors focused on the punk rock fest's impending move to Douglas Park in September.

Riot Fest's footprint in Douglas Park has not yet been finalized, but Scott said a majority of the fest will be on staged on soccer fields south of Ogden Avenue, bordered by Albany Avenue, California Avenue and 19th Street.

Max Wagner, Riot Fest director, said fest organizers typically hold a job fair in early August and hire hundreds of people from the neighborhood to work the fest.

Fest organizers are still working with the Park District and other city agencies to develop a transportation and parking plan to mitigate the fest's impact on the the surrounding neighborhoods. Running a three-day event that welcomed 160,000 people last year requires a lot of planning, and Scott assured residents that the layout of the fest, transportation and parking plans will be shared with the community soon.

"We're not shying away from any of the issues that Riot Fest presents," said Scott, a former park district manager. "We're working on it, and as soon as it's done, [plans] will be published [for everyone to see]."

About 200 residents attended new Ald. Michael Scott Jr.'s first community meeting Tuesday night. [DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay]

A group of North Lawndale and Little Village neighbors who are working to fight the fest's move booed Scott as the meeting ended. The group is now circulating a petition urging leaders to kill plans to move the fest to Douglas Park.

Sharaya Tindal, restorative justice coordinator at St. Agatha's Catholic Church, which neighbors the park, called the community meeting "a joke."

"If [Ald. Scott] was serious about considering the community's concerns, we would have had this meeting two months ago," Tindal said. "His only answer [to our questions tonight] was 'I don't know.'"

Ricardo Drew, a Little Village resident who works as a health promoter for non-profit Enlace Chicago, said Riot Fest serves "as an example of the use of public resources for private benefit."

"There's no community input," Drew said. "People are even more enraged after this meeting and we have to continue to fight this."

Of a group of 70 neighbors who attended a meeting at St. Agatha's earlier this month, 52 percent of neighbors said they opposed Riot Fest taking place in Douglas Park; 11 percent said they supported it; 37 percent said they would support the event if clear conditions for community benefits are created.

Residents who oppose Riot Fest's move to Douglas Park hold up signs after a community meeting at the Douglas Park Field House Tuesday. [DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay]

After the meeting, Scott said he has received a mixed reaction from the crowd. Despite opposition, the alderman said he is confident the community at large will embrace Riot Fest as a positive for the park, an event that will improve conditions while bringing economic development to the area.

"Who says no to jobs, to righting the ills of the park's drainage and turf, to the community benefiting from a free concert in the park that Riot Fest is going to get behind?" Scott said. "At the end of the day, the people of North Lawndale, South Lawndale, and the surrounding community will be happy."

Ald. Michael Scott Jr. (24th) talks with a resident after a community meeting at the Douglas Park Field House Tuesday. [DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay]

After facing pushback from the Humboldt Park neighborhood, Riot Fest organizers confirmed in May that the punk rock fest will be moved to Douglas Park in North Lawndale.

Douglas Park was a leading contender as tensions rose in Humboldt Park because it is similar in size and layout to Humboldt Park.

Douglas Park, located on 218 acres bound by Roosevelt Road on the north, California Avenue on the east, 19th Street on the south and Albany Avenue on the west, straddles the North Lawndale and Little Village neighborhoods. The north end of the park is in the city's 24th Ward, and the south end is in the 12th Ward.

An analysis of drug and gun crimes in and around Humboldt Park and Douglas Park showed that Douglas Park and the surrounding neighborhoods faced significantly more crime in the last year than Riot Fest's former home.

This year's Riot Fest will take place Sept. 11 to Sept. 13. Three-day tickets went on sale last month and are still available. Single-day tickets have not yet gone on sale.

No Doubt, Modest Mouse, Snoop Dogg, Billy Idol, System of a Down, The Prodigy and others will headline this year's fest, according to the full lineup.

In the distance, people play dominoes on a folding table in the northeast corner of Douglas Park. [DNAinfo/Mark Konkol]

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