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Park Board 'Wouldn't Want Riot Fest in Their Park,' Protesters Say

 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.
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.
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DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay (File)

STREETERVILLE — A small group of North Lawndale residents who feel their opposition to Riot Fest heading to Douglas Park isn't being heard by public officials made another plea to the Park Board of Commissioners Wednesday.

Joanna Rudenborg of North Lawndale told the Park Board at the meeting, 541 N. Fairbanks Ct., that she and others circulated a petition against the Douglas Park festival next month and talked to "dozens" of neighbors who were either opposed to or unaware of Riot Fest coming to their neighborhood after it was moved earlier this year amid community opposition. Many residents, she said, are now resigned to the fact it is coming.

"So my neighbors, for the most part, were not informed about Riot Fest. They were opposed to it once informed, and now think [you] don’t care what we think," Rudenborg said. Sara Heymann, another neighbor concerned about the festival, said their petition had collected 250 signatures.

Protesters said residents want to know the rationale behind selecting Douglas Park as the Riot Fest venue, how much Riot Fest will pay to use the park and how the park district would invest that money back into the park. They also expressed concern that the three-day fest would damage the park and that the public space would be shut down for use by a private corporation.

The punk rock festival next month featuring headliners No Doubt, System of a Down and Snoop Dogg arrived in Douglas Park after its promoter moved it from Humboldt Park amid opposition from Humboldt neighbors and Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th). The move did not require park board approval and was supported by the two aldermen whose wards oversee Douglas Park: Michael Scott Jr. (24th) and George Cardenas (12th), Park District Superintendent and CEO Michael Kelly said. 

"I would not have done this event" without aldermanic support, Kelly said after Wednesday's meeting. "You're never going to get 100 percent support. Lollapalooza doesn't have 100 percent support."

Scott and Cardenas could not be reached Wednesday evening, but Scott previously told neighbors that the festival would benefit the area economically.

"Who says no to jobs, to righting the ills of the park's drainage and turf?" Scott said in June. "At the end of the day, the people of North Lawndale, South Lawndale and the surrounding community will be happy."

Riot Fest will pay the park district a fee to rent Douglas Park for the festival running Sept. 11 to Sept. 13. Alonzo Williams, the park district's director of revenue, said the amount of the rental fee was "not available" Wednesday.

Riot Fest spokeswoman Heather West declined to comment on the festival's community opposition Wednesday, but did say the festival recently hosted a job fair in the park. 

Kelly directed Rudenborg and others who spoke out against the festival at Wednesday's meeting to Williams and Timothy King, the park district's general counsel. But after talking with the park district officials, the neighbors still felt their concerns weren't being addressed. 

One of those people was North Lawndale resident Sharaya Tindal, who — even though it wasn't approved by the park board — felt Riot Fest's move was being forced on her community.

"It's apropos that three of the commissioners live in Lincoln Park," she said. "Why is this punk rock festival coming to Douglas Park? The answer is they wouldn't want it in their park."

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