Police presence necessary at Carnival

By Arnold Auguste Thursday August 02 2012 in Opinion
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By ARNOLD A. AUGUSTE, Publisher/Senior Editor

Did you hear the one about the organizers of the carnival festival in Toronto this Saturday planning to search the bags of people who purchase tickets to sit in the safely enclosed bleachers in light of the recent shootings in Scarborough?



Yeah, I thought it was funny too.



Seriously? They are really going to do that? Aren’t these people usually families with young children and visitors from the U.S.?



Who is the genius who came up with such an asinine idea? Maybe the same one who came up with the idea to use those high fences to deter people without costumes from joining the bands.



How is that working out?



All it seems to have done is to make people who just want to see the parade look like monkeys in the zoo. I won’t be surprised if some masqueraders come to the parade with bananas to hand out. The young folks who tend to jump the fence and join the bands seem to have no problems at all. It is just very embarrassing overkill. This is the only parade in the country – probably in all of North America – in which people are fenced out like this. The organizers should be ashamed of themselves.



But, back to the decision to search the bags of the people who will pay $20 each to sit in the bleachers. Do they expect gang bangers to join them?



A spokesman for the parade, in a seemingly snide response to a television reporter’s question, suggested that they couldn’t, well, search one million people now, could they? Of course, he meant the million or so people who would be walking the route. If anyone were to carry a gun, it would be among them, not the folks in the bleachers, don’t you think?



So, they are pretending to be doing something by searching the easiest targets, the people the least likely to take their guns to town. That is supposed to make us all feel safe at the parade?



Look, we have a problem. There are criminals out there who are gunning for one another and when they find their target, they don’t care who is around and where they are. We get that.



But in the bleachers? This is just wrong.



The Toronto police have it right. They are going to be out in full force, with additional officers – both in uniform and undercover – at the parade. Just the knowledge of this might deter some although with these thugs, who knows?



But it is within the crowd that there needs to be the special attention; where officers need to have a strong presence – visible and otherwise – so that would-be troublemakers may think twice about doing something stupid.



We know that there are people who don’t like to see a heavy police presence at community events. In fact, in the past people have complained about the over-policing of this very parade. Now, maybe not so much. There might still be negative comments from a few but, after the recent spate of shootings, I don’t think the majority of people will be offended. In fact, I think they will welcome the show of force as protection.



It is unfortunate that it must come to this. We shouldn’t need to have enhanced security just so we could have a good time. But enhanced security – including a stronger police presence – is becoming a prerequisite for staging community events, and if that continues, we may see some of these events cancelled due to the additional cost or because law enforcement don’t want to take a chance on something bad happening.



Actually, it has already started. The carnival parade slated to be held in Barrie following the Toronto carnival has been cancelled because the police there don’t feel they can provide adequate security. Another event in downtown Toronto was cancelled. Maybe its sponsor, which is a bank, didn’t want to take a chance on its name being linked with the event if there was a shooting.



Another aspect of this is that people might just decide it’s not worth the risk to attend community events, which would see reduced attendance.



That has happened before. Years ago, there were a lot of great nightclubs in our community which were crowded on the weekends. Not anymore. Some closed because of violence and others because the patrons just stopped coming, mostly because of the fear of potential violence.



Could this happen to events like this carnival? Could we soon see the actions of a few destroy the hard work of the many?



Or will a strong police presence prevent this from happening?


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