Sometime before the gates opened for the second day of Riot Fest Saturday, someone had spray painted messages on a privacy tarp that hung on a chain link fence to separate the festival from the public way along Ogden Avenue.
Spray painted was the message “Get Out!!!” And “No Park For Profit!,” a reference to the controversy that has plagued Riot Fest organizers since they moved the fest to Douglass Park in 2015, after leaving Humboldt Park for similar reasons.
Another spray painted message that said “Real punx don’t support megafests that displace communities” was blacked out.
Many nearby residents object to the park being closed down for an extended period of time for private concert organizers, while others point to the free passe and jobs provided to residents, and opportunities for entrepreneurs to make money by selling items outside the fest.
On Saturday, Riot Fest organizers responded to the spray painted messages with a statement, saying in part, “We have done a huge amount of work to support the Lawndale/Little Village community, having over 150 meetings, holding vendor workshops, offering internships, local bands performance slots and so much more. … It’s unfortunate that someone would deface Douglass Park with spray paint, rather than help protect it.”
Festival goers on their way in said they understood the objections of some in the neighborhood.
“I get it, the park is special to the neighborhood, but they also get free passes,” Back of the Parks resident Ozzie Garcia, 27, said. Garcia was going to the fest with his brother and said while he felt for some residents, it wasn’t enough for him to stay away.
Bozena Aggen and her husband James drove in from Niles to attend the festival and noticed the spray paint that said “Go back to the burbs.”
“If they held it in the suburbs there would be people complaining there as well,” Age said. “I get it, but half the people seem to hate it while the other half loves it. A lot of people are taking advantage of the situation and making good money selling items.”
Bryan Sills of Avondale agreed, saying “I understand why they are upset and I think Riot Fest has done a poor job of outreach.” However, that didn’t stop Sills from entering the festival on Saturday.
“I really want to see Death Grips.”