Friday, July 6, 2012

July 4th Crowds Managed Quite Smoothly

Thousands lined Commercial Street for the 4th of July parade, scheduled to begin in the East End of town at 11 AM. It looks as though it actually started on time because a few folks were caught off-guard when the procession reached the center of town well before noon. We're not used to that around here. Any Provincetown parade has been practically guaranteed not to arrive at Town Hall for at least an hour after the scheduled starting time. It seems unfair to change the rules after all these years by starting on time.
Yesterday's parade crowd seemed fairly "ruly"
Swarms of people clogged Commercial Street following the parade, sort of like a dress rehearsal for the hour or so after the fireworks later on when our main thoroughfare would be bottlenecked for several blocks right in the center of town. One very noticeable difference every year between the après-parade crowd and the post-fireworks mob is the fact that in the evening, many more of our guests are likely to have enjoyed a number of lovely beverages throughout the day, while in the early afternoon not nearly as many have imbibed, simply because of the early hour. Actual numbers of folks who are snockered before noon are likely to be no more than 12% by volume.
I went to my trusty thesaurus and found that the only antonym of "unruly" mentioned there is "disciplined" so I think I'm probably making up a word when I describe yesterday's parade crowd as quite a "ruly" one, and the same seems to go for the fireworks crowd as well. I stayed out on Commercial Street for over an hour after the fireworks and saw very little commotion among the multitudes.
There was a far less noticeable police presence on the street for this year's fireworks than we've seen in some years, and we had what seems to me to be a fairly trouble-free night. Coincidence?
County Sheriff's officers keep foot traffic
moving on Commercial Street after fireworks
On July 4th a number of years ago I was walking down Ryder Street next to Town Hall toward the harbor about an hour before sunset. I wanted to get a good spot on the beach to sit and watch the fireworks. An enormous trailer was taking up the first several metered parking spaces near the corner of Commercial Street, and I could see inside through the open door and a couple of windows. It was full of monitors and screens and electronics, with a number of antennas on top, and there were clusters of wires and huge cables running in and out of various orifices. When I stopped to ask the men inside what this giant trailer was, they replied that it was the "command center" and my heart sank. I knew they would have to find some way to use all of this equipment, along with all of the various peace officers brought in to keep order on Commercial Street that night. Every Provincetown officer was on duty, and we had brought in officers from Truro along with county sheriff's officers on horseback and state troopers wearing riot helmets. Sure enough, there were a tremendous number of arrests made that night. If I remember, there were well over forty people cuffed and hauled away in a "paddy wagon" brought in for the occasion, a much greater number than our jail could hold, so many had to be booked into cells far away from Provincetown. Allegations of excessive use of force in some of these arrests made the news. There was a story reported about a man who tried to speak to officers about the way his friend was being treated while being arrested, and he himself was then forced to the ground, handcuffed and carted off to jail as well.
Thankfully we seem to have turned the corner when it comes to handling the tremendous crowds that join us for holidays, parades and other events that draw these throngs of visitors. Clearly, it is important to uphold the laws of the commonwealth, to maintain decorum on the streets and to provide for public safety, but it is good to see this happen in a much less heavy-handed manner than we've sometimes seen in the past. When an ambulance was needed near the Whalers Wharf very shortly after the end of the fireworks, I was among the crowd on the street there being parted and managed so that the ambulance could get down the road and the Rescue Squad could then do their job. Within moments a dozen Provincetown officers appeared on foot, on bicycles and on motorcycles, followed by the paddy wagon, to clear a path down Commercial Street, with the ambulance right behind. This was done quickly and efficiently, minus any officious attitude, and I felt proud, rather than sheepish, to be a yearround member of this community. I was on the streets the entire day and didn't see a single incident that embarrassed me to be a resident here.
We appreciate the very professional service of our local police men and women, and of all those who came from other communities to assist us during this celebration. We thank you, one and all.

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