The Memorial-Day Sun-Times article seemed as fishy as a Lake Michigan carp: “Police shut down North Ave. Beach after 8 suffer heat-related illnesses.” The story said that four beachgoers had gone to the hospital suffering from heat exhaustion, which, considering that at 90 degrees, it was the first real hot day after an unending monsoon season, isn’t that surprising. “Using a 2 ½-inch water line, firefighters created a mist in the area to cool people down,” read the Sun-Times story.
You’d think that these beachgoers were precious snowflakes, melting in the sun, begging for some protective police force to step in and shepherd them home to their window units and Smirnoff Ice.
You’d think that, that is, until you start reading the comments on the story:
“Um folks believe me the heat had nothing to do with this. Its more like the 2000 or so punk teens that showed up around 3pm and started causing problems that led to the closure.”
“The beaches were closed because of the mayhem at Oak St. Beach. There were several hundred teens there smoking reefer and acting the fool. They were blocking the bike path and knocking people from their bicycles, then kicking and punching them. There were two CPD bicycle officers at the beach, and they were clearly outnumbered. I an man in a yellow T shirt knocked from his bike and then kicked and beaten, he had a woman with him in a green t-shirt. she was screaming as he was being beaten.”
“There were two CPD bicycle officers on the scene; a tall african-american man and a white woman, they became seperated in the melee. I grabbed my bicycle and ran along the fence that borders the LSD. I was afraid that I was going to be beaten up. this all occured at about 5:50 pm.”
“They were knocking people off there bicycles that were coming from the North. There was no way to continue on the path because it was too crowded. I saw three people knocked from there bikes and then the teens would kick them and punch them, they were laughing as if it was a video game. A woman was screaming when her companion was being beaten, it was horrific. I think that the CPD had no control of the situation.”
So now, the truth comes out. Michael Sneed wrote about the real story–gang activity and the threat of violence are what really closed the beach down–in today’s Sun-Times, Fox News covered it, as did other outlets. What’s amazing is that the initial story released by the police–heat closed the beach–ever saw daylight. I mean, it’s a beach. People go there because it’s hot. It’s near water. You can cool off. You don’t close it down when it hits 90 degrees. You shut it down when you think you’re about to lose complete control over the sea of sweaty humanity.
As much as I take issue with citizen journalism’s vice grip on the news today, it’s moments like these when it makes sense. Someone has to ask the right questions–especially when reporters aren’t doing it.