'This Year's Holiday Will Be Different': Mayor Lightfoot, City Leaders Announce 'All-Hands-On-Deck' Approach For Safe Fourth Of July Weekend

Mayor Lightfoot joined city departments, agencies, and street outreach partners to announce public safety efforts ahead of the Fourth of July weekend.
Photo credit City of Chicago
By WBBM Newsradio 780 AM & 105.9 FM

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Mayor Lightfoot joined city departments, agencies, and street outreach partners to announce public safety efforts ahead of the Fourth of July weekend.

"Like everything else over the past few months, this year's holiday will be different — different in part, due to COVID-19, but also different, I think, because many of us are reflecting upon what our Declaration of Independence means. A Declaration of Independence that was written by and for a certain class of people that did not include people like me. It did not include blacks, it did not include women, it did not include our indigenous populations, and was premised on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but only for a certain class," Lightfoot said.

"Now the world has changed a lot since those documents were first drafted, and that Declaration of Independence from the ternary of King George was read out loud to the world, but we still must remember, we have a long way to go to full embrace and embody the spirit of what makes the United States different. The spirit of making sure that we are a government that is representative of the will of the people. The spirit of making sure that we focus on the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of ALL of our residents, not just a chosen few."

The mayor said those are some of the things she is thinking about, as she reflects upon what the Fourth of July means in this world, in this time, "were we have experience so much as a community, as a state, and as a country."

She said many traditions have been canceled or moved online, due to the COVID-19 pandemic; however, she said, Chicagoans will still be out relaxing and having fun.

"And we will be doing everything that we can to ensure that happens safely and responsibly..." Lightfoot said. "This has got to be an all-hands-on-deck approach to community. It is not just on the police department, not just on the fire department, not just on elected officials. All of us have to embrace our notion of community and step up and think about what we can do, each of us, in our own way to make our communities safe and healthy and vibrant.

"We can't give that responsibility to anyone else. If we do that, we are giving up our power over our own lives, over our own communities to someone else. It's on each of us to step up and own this space in this moment, and I hope that we do that."

The mayor said Millennium Park, Maggie Daley Park, and most neighborhood parks will be open with safe social distancing and face coverings. Meanwhile, the Lakefront Trail, Riverwalk, and 606 will continue to be open as long as people "keep it moving."

She said Chicago beaches will remain closed throughout the holiday weekend.

"Every single year, we lose so many people who drown in Lake Michigan. And this year, we have no lifeguards on the beaches, because the beaches are closed. Please, don't be foolish. The lake is dangerous. It always is. It is deep. It has riptides and currents underneath the water that you may not see when it looks calm and placid on top. Be smart. Do not go into the lake. There's no lifeguards. We don't want you to be another drowning casualty in our city," Lightfoot said.

To help the city reinforce these guidelines along the lakefront and in parks, CPD's Marine Unit will be patrolling the area to keep residents in compliance, the mayor said.

The mayor to bars and restaurants: "We simply cannot have any large gatherings like we saw last weekend in our bars and restaurants...This is a make or break weekend for you. Your financial fate is in your hands. Abide by the rules, or unfortunately, you're gonna suffer the consequences, and we're not playing with this. Heard a lot of complaints...all kinds of excuses. It's on you. We see what's happening in states around the country, even all the states that are surrounding us. And when governors get concerned, what do they do first? They shut down the bars and they shut down the restaurants.

"We have worked very, very hard to get to this point. We've been very prudent in our approach. We haven't done what other states have done, which is throw the barn down open and let people have at it. And we've seen when that approach has happened what the consequences are. Cases all over the country on fire. Record numbers of new cases and deaths from across the country and around Chicago. That's not gonna be our story. We're gonna do everything we can to keep members of the public safe. Safe from COVID, safe from violence. But to COVID, business owners, your fate is in your hands. I don't want to have to shut you down, but if you make me, I will.

She continued to say that huge crowds cannot be tolerated, especially those that do not social distance or wear masks in public. Those who do so are foolish, she said.

"You have a responsibility to wear a face-covering when you are outside. No question about it," she said. "But business owners, your financial fate depends upon you enforcing the guidelines that we drafted for you and with you. So please, abide by the rules this weekend...If we see businesses that are flouting the rules, that are putting your profit over the public health and safety of your workers, of members of the public, we're not gonna hesitate to shut you down. And if you're shut down, you're not coming back anytime soon."

The mayor also said the city has canceled all fireworks activities this weekend.

"It's disappointing to me personally, but it was prudent, because we couldn't take the risk of having crowds congregate around fireworks. The risk of spread is still too dangerous... Please, I want to discourage folks everywhere from using illegal fireworks, which are illegal for a reason," she said.

Lightfoot also said temperatures are expected to climb into the 90s this weekend. City departments will do well-being checks and people can access cooling centers. The CTA will be ready to deploy cooling buses as necessary.

In terms of keeping residents safe from gun violence, the mayor said, "make no mistake about it: public safety is first, second, third priority this weekend... This has to be an all-hands-on-deck approach. Obviously, the police department and our other law enforcement partners have a key role to play, but so do each of us. We know that in certain areas of the city, gathering en masse is a recipe for tragedy. Please, take care. Stay in your homes. Stay in your backyards. Be careful when you're going out in public. Do not put yourself at risk."

Mayor Lightfoot gave a special message to the young men who are out there with illegal firearms: "I ask you, I beg you, and I pray that you will find your humanity, that you will think about the sanctity of life. Before you pick up a firearm and pull the trigger, aiming for somebody else, think about the number of children that have been killed just in the last two weeks. A 1-year-old, a 3-year-old, a 13-year-old, a 10-year-old. A list that is painful for me to even recite. Families that will be forever shattered. Families will not recover from this hardship. Mothers' hearts who are broken. Fathers who are destroyed. Grandparents who are living in mourning. Think about that, young men, before you pick up a firearm. Think about that before you pull the trigger. Value your own life, but also value the life of others, and particularly our children."

The mayor said there is no coincidence as to why the city is announcing its weekend plans in Ogden Park. She said two nights ago, a 3-year-old girl was seriously injured in a shooting just over a mile southwest of Ogden Park; and over the weekend, a 1-year-old was shot and killed in a mile in the opposite direction.

"This is not who we are as a city, and this cannot be who we are as a city," Lightfoot said. "And when it comes to solving the problem, there are no simple or easy answers. If there were, we would have seized upon them years, maybe decades ago. We simply and fundamentally must challenge ourselves... Those young men that are out there on those corners, those young men who are playing out some fantasy on social media, we know who they are. They live in our communities.

"Reach out to them with a message of love, a message of reconciliation, and a message of hope. If we turn those young men around, it will inure to the benefit of the entire city, and we will all be the better for it. We have to do a better job of loving our children and providing them with an alternative to the life that too many of them have fallen prey to," she said.

Lightfoot said doing better means stepping up. She said it means doubling down on our city with investments like Invest South/West, the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund and our investments elsewhere.

"If that is all we give to those young men, we have to do better as a city to step up and make sure that every single young person is connected to healthy, meaningful activities. That's what all of us want," she said. "But we need to prick the consciousness of those young men before they pick up the firearm, before they find themselves on a track where they feel like they have no other course..."

Chicago Police Superintendent David Brown said a 20-month-old baby was shot and killed just blocks away from Ogden Park; and two days ago, a 3-year-old girl was shot immediately west of the park.

"And just like in my old neighborhood, [back in Dallas> the people here know the impact of violence better than anyone," Brown said. "That's why community members, neighbors, faith-based leaders, and organizers have stepped up to say 'enough. Enough of the violence,' so that our residents can enjoy a safe and healthy Fourth of July weekend. We need everyone's help to make our strategy work. We can't do it alone. No one knows their blocks better than the folks who live here."

Brown said the Chicago Police Department will have an extra 1,200 officers out daily, beginning Thursday to combat gun violence.

"Let me be clear: this is not just a law enforcement-only effort. Our all-hands-on-deck approach isn't just about police departments. It is about letting everyone know in Chicago that the city cares about them. We see you, South Side, We see you, West Side. We see you, Englewood. It is about working with our partners - the Park District, Streets and Sanitation, Department of Transportation, and others all weekend long," as well as block clubs, violence interrupters, and others.

"CPD is also participating in a series of events called 'Hit the Hood.' These events are organized by community leaders and are meant to provide a peaceful opportunity to celebrate Fourth of July," Brown said.

He said CPD will also have officers on foot patrol across neighborhoods, so that officers get to know their neighborhoods and residents and protect them, so they can celebrate safely.

Officers have already had days off canceled numerous times this year, "yet they remain committed to serving the city and keeping Chicagoans safe. I think we all need to celebrate a little bit this weekend. Let's celebrate our country. Let's celebrate summer in Chicago...I only ask that we do it safely."

Fire Department Commissioner Richard Ford said it can be possible to have fun while remaining safe.

"While many of us know that fireworks are banned statewide in Illinois, some people are still not aware of the fact that here in Chicago, bottlerockets and sparklers are also illegal to use. Sparklers may seem harmless; however, they burn at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, which is easily high enough to set clothing on fire and cause third-degree burns, unfortunately, to kids, disfiguring them," he said. "Sadly, each year in Chicago we have fireworks injuries that range from minor to extreme."

He said injuries include loss of fingers and hands, damage to eyes, and fatal head wounds.

"This year, we're seeing many more commercial-grade fireworks than we've ever seen in the hands of the public before due to many cancellations of professional displays. This means some very dangerous devices are now in the hands of those who are not trained properly in how to handle and safely use them," Ford said. "Remember: fireworks, including sparklers, are dangerous and illegal."

Ford said if you're on a boat, always wear a floatation device, be mindful of alcohol consumption, and stay close to the shoreline to ensure you can use your phone for help if needed. He also reminds boaters to have a fire extinguisher.

"While the beaches are closed, some may not be able to resist temptation to go into the water. If so, I implore you, please keep your children in your view at all times," Ford said.

Ford also reiterated the Mayor's statement that it will be hot this weekend.

"Please leave the fire hydrants alone," Ford said.

He said the mist from them makes it difficult for drivers to see kids in the street.

"That can cause a tragic incident. Additionally, open hydrants slow down our response" when fighting fires, he said.

City leaders told Chicagoans to enjoy the holiday weekend, but keep safety a priority.