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What does North Lawndale really think about Riot Fest?

We’ve heard from activists and aldermen on the festival’s use of Douglas Park. How about everyday people living in the neighborhood?

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Words by Tiffany Walden / Video by Morgan Elise Johnson

One of the most distinctive characteristics of the west side's Douglas Park is the rows of Chicago-style two-flats lining the perimeter of its 218 acres. Like many of the beautiful green spaces around the city, the park was created for the neighborhood that surrounds it—in this case North Lawndale, a predominantly black, blue-collar enclave.

On any warm day, the concrete porches of these homes fill with families gossiping, laughing, and enjoying the sunshine while their little ones play in the big park across the street. But for three days this September, Douglas Park will be taken over by outsiders.

Riot Fest, which is returning to the park for its second year, caters to the tastes of many Chicagoans—but not so much to those of the Chicagoans who live in the community that hosts it. Barricades and security will block off the park, and dozens if not hundreds of cars will take up parking spaces usually used by the people living in those two-flat buildings.

We walked along the park on 19th Street, asking neighbors to share their feelings about Riot Fest. People had plenty to say about the festival, and some complained that attendees left behind drug paraphernalia in the park last year. Many chose not to express themselves on camera, while others willingly spoke their minds.  v

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