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Fear Of Gang Violence Cancels Richfield 4th Of July Carnival

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- A Fourth of July tradition that's been around for decades is canceled this year because police fear it draws gangs.

Police urged the City of Richfield to cancel its annual Fourth of July Carnival at Veterans Park.

"I was kind of bummed," said resident Maria Casillas, "because every year we come out to the carnival."

Casillas thinks it's ridiculous for the gangs to ruin the carnival for her, her two children and other families.

Lt. Mike Flaherty of Richfield Police says a number of gangs from north Minneapolis came to the Richfield Carnival last year and police confiscated three guns.

"Every year that the carnival's there, it always seems to be kind of a hot spot for trouble," he said.

Flaherty added: "We went to the City, we went to the Fourth of July committee, explained our concerns from a public safety standpoint, and our recommendation was not to have the carnival anymore."

The city agreed. There are many other Richfield Fourth of July events that still go on in addition to the carnival, and the city told the Fourth of July committee they would only grant a liquor license for those events under the condition there was no carnival.

The committee obeyed the request.

"We had heard there were problems, and we took action," said Katie Robison of the Fourth of July committee. "There was no way that we were going to let something happen to any of the people who attended our events."

Carnival or not, Flaherty says there will still be the same around of police around as in the past. That's about 50 officers.

"Trust me, we'll make a good presence and we'll provide a safe environment," Flaherty said.

That's comforting news for families like the Casillas.

"It makes me feel happy,"  Casillas  said, "because they are actually out there, watching out for our safety."

There will be a Fourth of July parade and fireworks will go off at Veterans Park.

Police and the planning committee say they will see how this year goes before deciding whether the carnival will resume next year.

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