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Fourth of July celebrations in Baltimore mostly trouble-free

Although police had prepared for problems, Thursday's Fourth of July celebrations around Baltimore were mostly trouble-free.

During a news conference just before sunset at the Inner Harbor, Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts said there had been no arrests in the crowd, which exceeded 100,000. By 8 p.m., there had been just two unconfirmed reports: of a gun being discharged and of a possible suicide.

By 10:45 p.m. – an hour after fireworks had ended – the crowd was dispersing peacefully, according to Det. Jeremy Silbert.

Planning for the holiday began three months ago, Batts said.

"I've just spent time walking our perimeter." Batts said. "It's going well. It's a very large crowd, but everything I've heard so far is that they're happy we're out here."

But in Annapolis, the holiday was marred by tragedy when a 7-year-old boy died Thursday night after tumbling from a vehicle preparing to join the parade queue. In addition, the search was temporarily halted at sunset after a 24-year-old man went underwater while swimming in the Magothy River.

From Towson to Arbutus, from Catonsville to Columbia, from Fells Point to Pimlico, there were all the customary trappings of the day — pancake breakfasts, folks dressed in Colonial garb, marching men in uniform, kids in wagons festooned with balloons, and politicians on parade. Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake even put the first stitch in a 30-by-42-foot replica of the Star-Spangled Banner flag being created by the Maryland Historical Society.

Perhaps because of the extraordinary police presence in the Inner Harbor, what there wasn't was any trouble. There were no shootings or stabbings by the time the first fireworks went off in the Inner Harbor. Every officer on the Baltimore Police Department was ordered to work Thursday in an effort to stem the violence that has resulted in 40 shootings, including 16 homicides, in the past two weeks.

Police, in neon vests and often moving in groups of 10 or more, were out in force, but few complained about the increased presence. "I'm glad to see it," said Don Van Divner, 78, of Friendsville, who sported a red-white-and-blue golf shirt covered with quotes from the Declaration of Independence.

In Roland Park, Alex Finoggenoff, who was born in Russia but who became a U.S. citizen two years ago, was literally draped in an American flag. He wore it around his shoulders, and it matched his red-white-and-blue T-shirt as he marched with 400 others through his neighborhood.

"I'm just being patriotic and getting in the right spirit," said Finoggenoff, 38, who teaches at Barclay Elementary/Middle School in Charles Village. "It feels natural."

Though the day was overcast and mixed clouds and sun, with temperatures near 90 degrees and a 40 percent chance of showers, everyone stayed dry. That seemed unlikely after July's rainy start and June's record precipitation — it was the wettest month on record in more than four decades.

"It's like a Norman Rockwell picture in motion," said Heather D'Amore, 58, as she watched the Longfellow parade, which included pets in costume, including a wiener dog — that is, a Dachshund — wearing a hot-dog bun with the trimmings.

"It's as if the neighborhood got lost back in time, when neighbors were close and supported one another," D'Amore said.

Back at the Inner Harbor, Mark Andrews and Dave Dando, both of West Virginia, said they'd arrived about 4 p.m. to stake out a good viewing spot for their families.

Neither was aware there had been problems during other holiday celebrations, and news to that effect didn't dim their enthusiasm.

They'd even been amusing themselves by "counting cops." They were up to 40 by about 5 p.m., "none of them the same," Dando said.

The police presence, they said, didn't bother them a bit.

"We're here for the Fourth," Andrews said. "So far, it's been a very nice afternoon."

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporters Larry Perl, Jon Meoli and Casey Leins contributed to this article.



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