Fighting Foils Fireworks for 4th

Due to violence among spectators, the traditional July 4th fireworks show at Shaker Middle School will not take place this summer.

“I was really upset and surprised to hear about it,” sophomore Sarah Marek said.

According to Mayor of Shaker Heights Earl Leiken, “It is a safety and security issue.”

“There were 92 officers at the event last year and there were still fights, traffic disruptions and trampling over people’s lawns,” Leiken said. “In the last few years, we have had a large flash mob of kids throughout the area show up along with contacting others through social media and urging them to come.”

With so many people, the event had a “mob-like atmosphere and it’s beyond our capacity to control it.”

Because of the show’s neighborhood setting and many points of entry, it is nearly impossible to execute safety initiatives such as a checkpoint, or providing increased security as it gets dark.

“Fireworks were something I looked forward to every year, and I’m disappointed that they got cancelled,” sophomore Zane Weltman said. “But I think that not having fireworks is a better course of action than continuing them at the risk of more violence.”

Shaker residents did not organize a major challenge to City Hall when it announced the event’s cancellation in December 2012. “There was a violent fight on my street last summer that my neighbors were very concerned about,” said Shaker resident Ellen Brown, who lives near the middle school. “However, I really like Shaker hosting the fireworks. I’m saddened that a few trouble makers ruined it for our whole community.”

The event’s significant cost was also a factor, last year totaling $31,584 for the actual fireworks, staff and other components.

The city is creating a new celebration to take place at Thornton Park July 4. It will be a family event where access can be better controlled.

The fireworks show may not be cancelled forever. Leiken said, “It is in the realm of possibility for the future.”

A version of this article appeared in print 5 June 2013 on page 3 of The Shakerite.

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