A back-to-school event in Chicago aimed at promoting peace amid a violent summer ended with three people getting shot and another badly beaten.
The event took place in Seward Park in the city’s troubled North Side, an event meant to bring the community together and promote non-violence. But Fox News reported that a group of young men showed up and started fighting, leading to gunfire and chaos.
The annual event draws hundreds of local residents who come together to share food and festivities before children head back to schools. Organizers said they don’t know why a group of young people decided to come and start trouble.
“It’s senseless and should have never happened,” said event organizer Raymond Hatcher. “We were doing well. Everything was going swell and then a group of guys who were not associated with us, came to the event intoxicated.”
As the group came to the picnic, fights broke out and gunshots rang out, leading three people wounded by the gunfire and another badly beaten, with hundreds of bystanders running for cover.
The shooting at the Chicago Peace Picnic took place amid a bloody weekend for the city. As Fox 32 Chicago reported, there was a spate of shootings on Saturday alone that left one person dead and at least 17 others injured in a span of just 24 hours.
Across the entire weekend, a total of 46 people were shot, two fatally.
After the city’s murder rate steadily declined during the mid and late 2000s and 2010s, it has seen a jump in the past three years. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has come under fire for the rising violence, and generated even more controversy when he appeared to blame a lack of morals in the mostly minority neighborhoods at the center of the violence.
“This may not be politically correct,” he said according to Fox News, “but I know the power of what faith and family can do. … Our kids need that structure. … I am asking … that we also don’t shy away from a full discussion about the importance of family and faith helping to develop and nurture character, self-respect, a value system and a moral compass that allows kids to know good from bad and right from wrong.”
Local leaders say the problems in Chicago are much more complex and include what many say are racist policies and enforcement by police in these neighborhoods.
Chicago police have not said if they have any suspects in the shootings and beating at the Peace Picnic.