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Oak Park shifts trick-or-treating hours

Citing potential racial biases, the board votes to change hours to 4-8 p.m.

October 8th, 2019 1:29 PM

By Stacey Sheridan

Staff Reporter

For decades, Oak Park allowed trick-or-treating during the hours of 3-7 p.m. on Halloween. This year, however, kids can continue their candy collecting in Oak Park past that, as the board moved to push back trick-or-treating hours to 4-8 p.m. at its Oct. 7 meeting. 

Trustee Arti Walker-Peddakotla made a large push to set the hours back. "This is a really good example of two things," she said. "One: why racial equity training is really important because if we had used a checklist to evaluate this ordinance, we would have realized that this is overreach." The board also voted affirmatively to change the ordinance into a resolution.  

Walker-Peddakotla went on to say that the standard 3-7 p.m. trick-or-treating timeframe negatively affects children with working parents or single parents. Those parents, she said, may not be back in time from work. 

A main concern in keeping the tradition of a 3-7 p.m. timeframe, some felt, was the potential for police to unfairly target children of color out trick-or-treating after 7 p.m. for violating the ordinance. The police department could not be reached to find out if any ordinance violations had been given in past years to trick-or-treaters, of color or otherwise, collecting candy after 7 p.m.  

In public comment, Susanne Fairfax, told the board she agreed with Walker-Peddakotla's concerns. "This is a very, very good example of the difference using a racial equity lens when creating laws and codes for this village and not doing, how something can gently become a real problem." Fairfax called Halloween in Oak Park "beautiful" because it is one of the times when Oak Parkers connect with people from other communities who come to Oak Park to trick or treat. She cautioned the board against marring it by constricting trick-or-treating hours. 

Anthony Clark, community activist and Oak Park and River Forest High School teacher, addressed the board after Fairfax, saying, "I just wanted to share a quick truth, being a black male." He went on to tell the board that after being shot in 2007 while serving in the military, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. 

"In the process of attending therapy sessions, I realized that I have PTSD from being a child, from interaction with police officers in this community, when I was choked out in Scoville Park at the age of 12," he said. Clark's family moved to Oak Park when he was five years old. 

"I honestly can't even think straight. I'm a little irritated, I'll be honest with you," Clark said to the board. "You all are wonderful individuals, but to have people with privilege speak for me and my experiences is unacceptable."

The board, Clark said, was missing the "systemic issue" and that even as an educated black man, he still fears interacting with Oak Park police officers.

"If we're truly a progressive community, we should be limiting police interaction," Clark said. "I don't give a damn if you have three good cops; the system is the problem." He also said that he sees symptoms of PTSD in his students caused by police interaction. 

"If I ever have a child, I'll be damned if police have a way or say in how he is raised," Clark said before stepping back from the podium. The audience clapped for Clark, as he exited the meeting. 

In the final public comment regarding Halloween, Oak Park father Will Sims told the board he agreed with Clark. "I have an 11-year-old son and we trick or treat past 7 o'clock," he said. "He is getting taller, he's going to be recognized as a young black male, which is to be a target for police, whether it's trick-or-treating or whatever."

According to Sims, ending Halloween festivities at 7 p.m. is too early and it targets people who work, calling it unfair. "It also targets people from Austin, from Maywood, neighboring communities that don't have great trick-or-treating," said Sims. Children from those neighborhoods often trick or treat in Oak Park. Imposing a time limit would negatively affect those children and make Oak Park look less welcoming to outsiders of color, he added. 

Sims doesn't think there should be a rule at all dictating when kids can or cannot trick or treat. "Why put a law on Halloween? It doesn't make sense," he said. "It's Halloween! We're supposed to be out there having fun, saying, 'Boo!' and collecting candy." Sims was also met with applause from the audience. 

Trustee Deno Andrews agreed 7 p.m. was too early, suggesting that the board get rid of designated Halloween hours or move them to either 3-8 p.m. or 4-8 p.m. Trustee Dan Moroney preferred 4-8 p.m., while Walker-Peddakotla wanted to abolish the timeframe completely. 

"I just don't think that we should have any hours and if we do have hours, they should be extended to 9 p.m. at the latest," she said. 

Trustee Jim Taglia supported 4-8 p.m., citing public safety concerns. "People do drink on that evening, they are out driving, and kids are hard to see at night," he said. 

In a unanimous vote, the board decided to change Halloween hours from 3-7 p.m. to 4-8 p.m.