Riot Fest vs. Humboldt Park: Issue of Stereotyping?

CHICAGO — This September, Riot Fest will take place in Douglas Park for the second consecutive year. The punk rock festival, which began as a multi-venue in Chicago in 2005, moved its location from Humboldt Park to Douglas Park on the west side last year.

Riot Fest 2015 in Douglas Park

This move was prompted by several complaints over damages to Humboldt Park after the 2014 festival and its negative effects on the community voiced by many, included Roberto Maldonado, Alderman of the 26th Ward. While these complaints were understandable, was it possible that one of the reasons the community wanted the festival gone was that they did not want members of the punk scene in their neighborhood?

Since its beginning, punk music and punk ideologies have always been an alternative to the mainstream for people to embrace. Since it was something different than the mainstream, punks were often cast in a negative light.

“There was a time in the late 1970s and early 1980s when punk was viewed by some public officials and ordinary citizens as some kind of threat to mainstream ways of being,” said Daniel Magakon, an Associate Professor in the College of Communication at DePaul and author of Underground: The Subterranean Culture of Punk House Shows.

However, despite society’s negative views on punks, oftentimes the communities are filled with friendly and welcoming people.

“The punk scene is a collection of those who don’t feel like they fit into any other sector of society. We welcome anyone who feels unwelcome in other places,” said Patrick Creed, who has been a part of the Chicago punk scene for over ten years.

“We’re a friendly bunch — the friends I have met in the punk scene are some of the kindest human beings I’ve ever met,” said Creed.

Jim Michalik, who has been a part of the punk community since he was in eighth grade, stressed that “the punk rock scene is one of acceptance and tolerance” and that the people “are the absolute best people I know.”

“We all have different interests outside of punk rock, but that one factor is strong enough to bring us all together on a consistent basis and every time feels like a family reunion. It’s incredible.”

So if the punk community is full of good, friendly people, why was Humboldt Park so set on kicking out the festival?

One of the arguments against Riot Fest staying in Humboldt Park was that the amount of damage the festival caused in 2014 was too severe and irresponsible. While the park did require plenty of repair, thanks to significant rain, the amount was nothing new to Chicago, a city that holds multiples festivals throughout the year. Below are two tables that illustrate the attendance and cost of repairs for three Chicago festivals.

Another argument against Riot Fest was that the festival causes problems of violence and is unsafe. However, during last year’s fest, there was only one arrest throughout the whole event.

That number is low compared to other festivals, such as Lollapalooza which had 34 arrests. In an article for DNAInfo, CPD spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said that, with the high presence of police, they had “contingency planning if the event did erupt into violence, but that wasn’t necessary.”

Some were also concerned that Riot Fest’s move to Douglas Park would be dangerous, as the area was surrounded by open-air drug markets according to police statistics. This proved to not be the case, as the amount of crime in the area around the park leading up to the festival decreased by 16% compared to the previous year.

These are understandable complaints and cause problems at festivals all over, but Riot Fest being held in Humboldt Park also brought a lot of positives to the neighborhood. Business in the area saw more traffic than usual, and the park became more popular as well. The festival was committed to bettering the community through fund raisers, food drivers, job fairs, and charitable donations.

One could argue for or against the arguments made by the members of the Humboldt Park community and whether or not they were justified in kicking the festival out of the park. Yet, the issue of the festival focusing on punk rock is worth bringing up, as other festivals in the city continue to have more problems than Riot Fest yet continue to go on.

Regardless of those arguments, Riot Fest will once again be held in Douglas Park from September 16th to 18th.


Ali, T. (2015, September 15). Only One Person Arrested During Riot Fest in Douglas Park, Police Say — North Lawndale — DNAinfo Chicago. Retrieved June 03, 2016, from

Pollock, M. (2015, September 28). Riot Fest Spent $180,000 Beautifying Douglas Park. Is That Really So Bad? Retrieved June 03, 2016, from

Keep Riot Fest in its Humboldt Park Home: Sign the Petition. (2015, May 8). Retrieved June 05, 2016, from

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