At Fourth of July celebrations across the country, scenes of chaos broke out as fireworks booms were reportedly mistaken for gunshots, sending a large number of partygoers running for cover.
Following a recent string of high-profile mass shootings, including one that occurred early on Monday in Highland Park, Illinois, killing six people, crowds panicked and fled from loud noises in Orlando, Harrisburg, Pa., and Washington, suggesting that the country is on edge.
“It is devastating that a celebration of America was ripped apart by our uniquely American plague,” Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) said Monday. “While we celebrate the Fourth of July just once a year, mass shootings have become our weekly — yes weekly — American tradition.”
The Fourth of July celebrations were ruined by the bloodshed that occurred in the 30,000-person Chicago suburb. Instead of candy wrappers and stray streamers, residents of Highland Park fled the scene and sought refuge for hours while a manhunt got underway, leaving behind pooling blood and abandoned strollers as the aftermath of the parade.
Americans were hypervigilant in public areas of foreign cities, sensitive to loud noises, and ready to disperse.
Many onlookers at a fireworks display in downtown Orlando fled as loud bursts reverberated across the area, and some were slightly hurt, police said. An eyewitness told a local news channel that some people had leaped into a nearby lake. According to authorities, there was no shooting, and the sound was likely what had caused the mistake.
Prior to the big fireworks display, fear was likely caused in Harrisburg by the sound of firecrackers being tossed on the ground, authorities said to the local ABC News affiliate. Authorities concurred that no gunfire occurred.
“The fact that you have to be ready for a mass shooting at any moment is proof of a country rotten to its core,” wrote a Twitter user who said he was there.
People in the area of 11th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., fled in the direction of the National Mall after hearing two loud booms. Authorities on the scene acknowledged that the noises were fireworks and stated that the alert was likely caused by the noises.
As per Washingtonpost, a crowd in Philadelphia was forced to leave a gathering close to the city center after hearing actual gunfire. Videos that were being shared on social media showed some people attempting to climb safety barriers while fireworks were being set off in the distance.
According to Danielle Outlaw, the police commissioner for Philadelphia, two police officers who had been shot have been treated and released from a hospital. She stated that although no arrests had been made, law enforcement was pursuing leads.
Jim Kenney, the mayor of Philadelphia, expressed his frustration with American gun control legislation and told reporters that he was looking forward to his departure from office because he was constantly concerned about a potential shooting at public gatherings.
“I’m concerned every single day…I’m waiting for something bad to happen all the time, so I’ll be happy when I’m not mayor,” Kenney said late Monday.
“We have to come to grips with what this country is about right now,” he said. “We had a beautiful day out there today except for some nitwit shooting … who has a gun and probably shouldn’t have had it.”