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Jim DeRogatis

More trouble at the Congress Theater

Updated Sunday afternoon with a link to a letter from the owner of the Congress about Friday night.

A fight during a hip-hop show at the Congress Theater Friday night prompted a response from more than two dozen police and fire officials and shut down Milwaukee Avenue for several blocks in both directions.

The incident occurred only three days before a Deleterious Impact/Public Nuisance Hearing on the venue set to take place at City Hall Tuesday, and on the eve of two sold-out shows by electronic dance music superstar Bassnectar, who has expressed concerns about the quality of security at the theater and is bringing his own team to shows tonight and Sunday.

(In response to comments below: Bassnectar brings his own security to every show, but in a post on his Web site, he specifically criticized the Congress and mentioned the rape outside the venue earlier this year, as reported earlier in this blog.)

Details regarding Friday’s altercation between a concertgoer and police are sketchy, and officials reported only one arrest, for a patron who attempted to drive away while intoxicated.

The fight occurred during a show headlined by featuring Chief Keef Sossa, a 16-year-old South Side rapper under house arrest for unlawful use of a weapon during a run-in with Chicago Police. (Here is a profile of the artist from Gawker.)

Keef is notorious for bragging about being a drug dealer, as well as for the song “Bang” (“That smoke’s got me gone, can hear it in the air/We on top like some stairs, don’t give a f---, I be goin’ to hell”) and a mix tape of the same name that pictures him holding a handgun.

Chicago Police clearly expected trouble at the show and sent the following message in advance to neighborhood groups and 1st Ward Ald. Joe Moreno: “Chief Keef is on a GPS electronic monitoring device. A contract was signed with the promoter for Chief Keef to perform and a judge has ruled to honor the contract obligation and has allowed Chief Keef to participate in the show.”

Some supporters of the Congress Theater were quick to suggest racial profiling in the wake of the police response, but neighborhood blogger Alisa Hauser, who has been harshly critical of Ald. Moreno and exceedingly pro-Congress Theater, has an exhaustive and reasonably balanced post on her Chicago Pipeline Web site.

UPDATE: Congress Theater owner Eddie Carranza, who has been working harder in the public-relations battle with Ald. Moreno before the Tuesday hearing than he has to make improvements to his venue over the last decade, sent a long letter to the Logan Square community Sunday blaming an exaggerated police response on Friday on--you guessed it--Moreno. The text of the letter can be found here.

Earlier reports in this blog about the Congress Theater:

March 28: Critical of Congress security, headliner brings his own

March 25: Congress Theater responds to complaints

March 22: City to Congress Theater: Clean up your act!

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