The news of Sunday’s gunplay was shocking: 13 people shot at an impromptu party on the riverfront at the very wee hour of 4:42 a.m.
But it was almost as surprising to learn that this 200-person gathering was no rarity. For a year, Peoria has been plagued by what police call "roving street parties."
By word of mouth and social media, a party site is shared. It could be a gas station, a parking lot, just about anywhere. Attendees drink booze and play music, unless some calls the cops and the street soiree gets rousted. But oftentimes, revelers flee to a new spot and party on.
The big problem: fighting. Sunday, fighting ended with gunfire.
The best news there: shooters squeezed off 100 rounds, yet hit just 13 people. That’s not good for the victims, of course, but consider the carnage that could’ve occurred.
"It could’ve been a lot worse," Police Chief Loren Marion said Monday.
The chief, who is usually cool in public, showed a bit of irritation at his press conference. After all, 100 rounds and 13 victims is no trifling matter.
"It’s not as simple as people hanging out," he said.
That’s the part that seems confounding. We know that people like to get together. We know that people like to party.
But like this? With fights almost guaranteed? And arrests a possibility?
Why throw such risky shindigs? Why party so precariously? Why push on with such gusto and perseverance, darting from spot to spot, just one step ahead of police?
Good questions. Multiple answers. Maybe.
Marion, 51, recalls the long-ago days when youths used to cruise Main Street. Some might have a few pops. And some might mix it up. But those fights started and ended with fists. No one reached for a gun.
Marion sighs, then says, "That’s how it is sometimes today."
That all-to-common option leaves him disturbed and frustrated. So does the fact that these parties are not attended just by risky youths. Far from it. Sunday’s victims were 20 to 39 years old.
For most of that age range, bars and clubs are options for music and cocktails. But for many vagabond partiers, legal reveling has limitations, says 1st District Councilwoman Denise Moore. Though street-party attendees apparently come from all parts of the city, many sometimes try go to Black clubs but can’t get in, she says.
"Black clubs often have room for only 40 or 50 people," she says.
Plus, the cover charge at some Peoria nightspots is high, sometimes as much as $30, she says.
"Plus drinks? That isn’t cheap," she says.
Not that she is excusing anyone who chooses to illegally party in a street an hour before sunrise.
"If you’e 25 years old, I don’t have to provide a place for you to be at 5 a.m.," she says. "Well, I do know a good place: home."
Though these pop-up parties came to Peoria long before the coronavirus, the stay-at-home order might have given some residents extra enthusiasm to hit the streets, says Andre Allen, chair of the city’s advisory committee on police-community relations.
"People have been in the house for the past four months," he says.
That’s the same rationale cited by police in Springfield, where a sudden surge in street parties recently left three people shot and two stabbed. Residents there are hot about streets and parks being taken over by wild partiers.
"They’re tired of being cooped up. They’re tired of having to stay at home," Springfield’s police chief told the State Journal-Register. "But coming to these parks and coming to these residential neighborhoods like … is not an acceptable alternative."
It’s happening elsewhere too. In Chicago, as many as 1,000 people gathered near the Chicago River Saturday night, some with coolers and lawn chairs. According to the Chicago Tribune, two people were shot, one fatally.
Peoria police have planned counter-measures (they don’t want to reveal specifics) to stop the parties and violence. Let’s hope this fad fizzles peacefully.
What strange times we live in. These days, for the sake of public safety, police gotta fight for your right to not party.
PHIL LUCIANO is a Journal Star columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/philluciano and (309) 686-3155. Follow him on Twitter.com/LucianoPhil.
via Journal Star
July 20, 2020 at 04:10PM