‘Peaceful and responsible’ Mexican Independence Day celebrations urged as city officials announce rolling street closures in South Loop, downtown

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City officials Friday night said there would be “rolling closures” of roads in the central business district in response to Mexican Independence Day celebrations in the area.

Roosevelt Road, Michigan Avenue, Ida B. Wells Drive, DuSable Lake Shore Drive, and Columbus Drive were affected by the closures Friday night and possibly will be through the weekend, Rich Guidice, executive director of the Office of Emergency Management and Communications, said in a news conference Friday evening at Ida B. Wells Drive and Michigan Avenue in the South Loop.

Police and city officials emphasized the importance of the Mexican American community to Chicago’s history and the importance of celebrating that culture peacefully.

“Let’s be clear, the Mexican American community is a vital and vibrant part of the fabric of Chicago. It’s important to celebrate the role they have played in our city’s diverse history, helping Chicago to become the great city it is today,” First Deputy Superintendent Eric Carter said.

“But that celebration must be peaceful and responsible. Any celebration that blocks traffic, involves disruptive or criminal behavior will not be tolerated.”

Illinois State Police will be helping Chicago police officers with traffic control in the central business district, Guidice said.

People who live or work in the business district will be allowed through closed roads by showing officers a driver’s license or work identification, Guidice said.

Deputy Chief Angel Luis Novales, with the office of community policing, added that road closures and enforcement will happen based on real-time observation throughout the weekend.

The announcement came a day after a caravan of thousands of cars congregated in the central business district, bringing Lake Shore Drive and Michigan Avenue to a halt Thursday night, on Mexican Independence Day.

Historically, people would cruise through the streets of predominantly Latino neighborhoods. But in recent years Chicago police began closing streets and blocking intersections where people would congregate to cheer on the caravans. In 2020, residents in Little Village — known as the Mexico of the Midwest — reported street closures in the nights leading up to the eve of Mexican Independence Day.

Carter said the Police Department and OEMC were prepared for those crowds.

“Unfortunately, things have evolved into a more chaotic situation than what would typically be,” Carter said. “The numbers have increased. … Car caravans are a relatively new thing to happen here in the city.”

Additionally at least 23 people were shot from Thursday evening into early Friday, one of which happened in the South Loop and police said was related to the celebrations for the holiday.

Just before 11 p.m. in the 1400 block of South Canal Street, a 19-year-old man was shot in the leg. He told police he was visiting Chicago to celebrate Mexican Independence Day downtown and was in a “big crowd” of revelers, police said.

Suddenly, the 19-year-old saw a black SUV heading toward the celebrating crowd, heard several gunshots, and realized he’d been shot. He was taken to Stroger Hospital, where he was listed in good condition, police said.

Police, however, would not confirm any link between the celebrations and a fatal shooting that happened 45 minutes later, about a block away from where the 19-year-old was shot.

During that attack, a 25-year-old man who has not been formally identified was in the parking lot of a food store in the 1300 block of South Canal Street about 11:45 p.m. when a fight broke out between him and two male assailants, police said.

Cellphone video captured the altercation, including when one of the attackers, wearing a red shirt and sporting a long, black ponytail, reached into his waistband to pull a gun, and shot the 25-year-old in the jaw. He was taken to Stroger Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, officials said.

Ahead of the celebrations, which began Wednesday, the Tribune asked the Police Department and city officials how they were preparing for the crowds and in what ways were they encouraging Chicagoans to celebrate safely and avoid getting arrested. The Police Department deferred questions to the OEMC.

An OEMC statement Wednesday said that no street closures were planned for this year’s celebrations, but the city had “measures in place if any activity begins to escalate.”

“As tens of thousands of residents are coming together to celebrate and embrace their rich heritage and great diversity that helps to make our city what it is, we remain committed to ensuring the safety and security of all those participating in the celebratory activities,” the Wednesday statement said.

Chicago Tribune reporter Laura Rodríguez Presa contributed.

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