Annapolis officials say they are increasing security at this year’s Fourth of July parade and fireworks display in case of bigger-than-usual crowds — in light of Thursday’s attack on the Capital Gazette that left five dead.
“Our big thing is that we think that this particular Fourth of July is going to be different because it’s going to take a healing role for the community,” said deputy chief Kevin Simmons, director of the Office of Emergency Management.
“There will be a bunch more people coming out to support Annapolis. We think that folks want something that’s uplifting after the tragedy over at Bestgate Road.”
Last week, a gunman shot through the glass door at the Capital Gazette office on Bestgate Road and killed five staff members: Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters. Police charged Jarrod Ramos, 38, of Laurel with five counts of first-degree murder in their deaths.
Paul Gibbs, a special events coordinator with the Annapolis Police Department, said 56 additional officers would be on the ground for the Wednesday parade and fireworks. The parade begins at 6:30 p.m. and ends at 8 p.m.; the fireworks will begin at 9:15 p.m.
In the past, about 40,000 to 50,000 people have attended the city’s Fourth of July events, which will continue as usual with no major changes, city spokeswoman Susan O’Brien said. The city invited the staff of the Capital Gazette to lead the parade and honor the staff members killed last week.
“The important thing is that the victims that passed away would want life to go on,” she said.
Police will shut down Main Street for the parade at 5 p.m. and begin monitoring the gathering crowds. The street will reopen as crowds dissipate, Gibbs said. There will be “no parking" signs up in Eastport, and police will station traffic signals and officers around the city to help keep traffic flowing.
The weather is expected to be cloudy in the morning with temperatures reaching into the mid-90s, said Alexander Davies, U.S. Naval Academy command forecaster. Scattered thunderstorms are possible.
Downtown hotels are anywhere from 30 percent to 75 percent booked, said Connie Del Signore, Visit Annapolis president and CEO. About 60,000 people had visited the Fourth of July information page on the Visit Annapolis website, Del Signore said — standard for this time of year.
“We were very happy to see there’s no drop,” Del Signore said. “What was reported [about the attack] really showed what a wonderful community we have, and I think that was a positive.”
Simmons said the police and fire departments, the Annapolis Harbormaster, and the U.S. Coast Guard would provide additional security on the water.
“There is no way of us knowing (how many people will attend), but we're prepared to handle a very large crowd this year,” he said.