Wednesday 7 December 2016

Terrorism fears lead to heightened security at July 4th festivities in US

Barbara Goldberg

Published 04/07/2016 | 13:09

Willow Seixas, 4, of Anacortes works on her hula hoop skills during a city commemoration of veterans and children games at the Anacortes Depot, in Wash., on Sunday (Scott Terrell/Skagit Valley Herald via AP)
Willow Seixas, 4, of Anacortes works on her hula hoop skills during a city commemoration of veterans and children games at the Anacortes Depot, in Wash., on Sunday (Scott Terrell/Skagit Valley Herald via AP)
To mark the Fourth of July holiday, fireworks explode over buildings in downtown Denver late Sunday, July 3, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Spectators watched the fireworks display from a bridge across W 84th St. at Normandale Lake Bandshell in Bloomington, M.N., on Sunday, July 3, 2016. The city of Bloomington held an Independence Day celebration at Normandale Lake Bandshell on Sunday. (Isaac Hale/Star Tribune via AP)

The United States celebrates July Fourth on Monday with parades, hotdog eating contests and fireworks shows amid heightened security because of concerns about terrorism in New York and timeworn holiday gun violence in Chicago.

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Millions of Americans will mark independence from Britain with celebrations as boisterous as a music-packed party by country music legend Willie Nelson for 10,000 people at a race track in Austin, Texas and as staid as colonial-era costumed actors reading the Declaration of Independence at the National Archives in Washington.

History may be in the making in the traditional hotdog-eating contest at New York's Coney Island. Joey "Jaws" Chestnut - a world record holder who ate 69 hotdogs in 10 minutes - attempts to regain his Mustard Yellow International Belt from Matt Stonie, who last year ended Chestnut's run of eight straight victories.

With the holiday taking place days after the attack at Istanbul's international airport, the New York Police Department will deploy eight new canines known as vapor wake dogs, trained to sniff out body-worn explosives, Commissioner Bill Bratton said on Friday.

The department's human presence this holiday will be increased by nearly 2,000 new officers who graduated Friday from the New York City Police Academy.

"As we always have the capacity in New York to put out a lot of resources, that's the name of the game, in dealing with terrorist threats," Bratton said.

Fireworks are set off during Canton Ohios Monumental Fourth Celebration at the William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum on Sunday, July 3, 2016, in Canton, Ohio. (Bob Rossiter/The Canton Repository via AP)
Fireworks are set off during Canton Ohios Monumental Fourth Celebration at the William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum on Sunday, July 3, 2016, in Canton, Ohio. (Bob Rossiter/The Canton Repository via AP)
Fireworks are set off during Canton Ohios Monumental Fourth Celebration at the William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum on Sunday, July 3, 2016. (Bob Rossiter/The Canton Repository via AP)
People watch fireworks as part of the Rockin' Independence Eve celebration on Sunday, July 3, 2016, in Winchester, Va. (Scott Mason/The Winchester Star via AP)
To mark the Fourth of July holiday, fireworks explode over buildings in downtown Denver late Sunday, July 3, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Police in Chicago, which has seen a spike in gun murders this year, announced a stepped up presence with more than 5,000 officers on patrol over the long weekend, traditionally one of the year's most violent, said Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson. Local media reported on Friday that 24 people had been shot over the past 24 hours, three fatally.

Dry weather forecasts across the country thrilled fireworks lovers, although some spots in Michigan have been so rain-starved that pyrotechnic shows were canceled in a handful of communities near Detroit to prevent fires.

NFL star Jason Pierre-Paul, who lost fingers as one of the 12,000 people injured and 11 killed in fireworks accidents last year, appeared in a public service announcement ahead of the 2016 holiday to urge greater caution.

"I lit up a firework, thought I could throw it away real quick and in a split second it blew off my whole hand," the New York Giants defensive end said in the spot produced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Reuters

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