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Stepped Up Security Calms Concerns At Thanksgiving Day Parade

Security set up in front of the Time Warner Building at Columbus Circle. | YANNIC RACK
Security set up in front of the Time Warner Building at Columbus Circle. | YANNIC RACK

BY YANNIC RACK | On the evening before the crowds for this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade started pressing up against the barriers, Mayor Bill de Blasio was addressing New Yorkers at another annual tradition: the inflation of the balloons.

“This begins a season of appreciation, a season to focus on family and all our loved ones,” the mayor said on Central Park West near the American Museum of Natural History. “And yet, at the same time, there are some in this world who are trying to stir fear. They’re trying to make us afraid.”

De Blasio, together with NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, was responding to concerns raised over the previous days about spectators staying away from the parade out of fear of a terrorist attack similar to the ones that recently struck Paris.

Even though officials emphasized that there had been no credible threats against the city, the gruesome attacks were still fresh in many minds. Last week, a propaganda video by the Islamic State –– which claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks –– seemed to imply New York as a future target, showing street scenes from the city that included Herald Square.

But the mayor urged people to come down to the parade nonetheless.

“They’re trying to make us change our lifestyle and change our values, lose our spirit, lose our values,” he said. “We refuse to do that.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton on Wednesday evening as the parade balloons were inflated on Central Park West. | DONNA ACETO
Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton on Wednesday evening as the parade balloons were inflated on Central Park West. | DONNA ACETO

De Blasio pointed to the city’s increased effort to provide security at the parade, with around 2,500 officers assigned to the event –– the largest number to ever line the parade route from Central Park West to Herald Square.

In addition to helicopters, plainclothes cops, specially trained dogs, and counterterrorism officers carrying radiation detectors, the NYPD dispatched around 200 officers from its newly formed Critical Response Command.

Talking to parade-goers and families on Thanksgiving, it seemed the extra security was having the desired effect.

“I definitely felt it was gonna be safe,” said Renée Simmons, 45, who had come up from Brooklyn to watch the parade with her five-year-old son Gregory at Columbus Circle.

“We’re New Yorkers –– we picked today to come because it’s probably the safest that it’s ever been,” she added, gesturing toward a pair of heavily armed officers standing nearby.

And not only the locals felt protected. Ambre Laplace and Gwladys Maloma, both 27, were visiting from Paris and said they felt “totally safe” at the parade –– even though they had both lived through the recent attacks in the French capital.

“In New York it’s very good, police is everywhere. In France, it’s not the same,” said Laplace, as the colorful parade floats were bobbing down Central Park West.

Police remained vigilant throughout the parade. | YANNIC RACK
Police remained vigilant throughout the parade. | YANNIC RACK

The event ended up running smoothly and trouble-free, save for one father-son duo from Russia who reportedly flew a drone over the parade route at Central Park West and were subsequently slapped with a summons.

The air of defiance against fear stretched all the way down to Herald Square, where the parade reached its climax in front of the Macy’s flagship store.

Jeff Zeta, 37, said he arrived with a group of family and friends from Toronto the day before. Despite the security concerns, they had travelled 10 hours to witness the spectacle.

“It was a thought I had, with the family, because my young child is here,” Zeta said, nodding toward his wife and four-year-old son, Niam. “But I’m not afraid of that stuff.”

He added the beefed up security had certainly calmed minds but was hardly the decisive point for making the trip.

“The ladies all wanted Black Friday, so that wasn’t gonna stop them,” he joked.

Despite reports fear might keep crowds down at the parade, a large crowd waited for the balloons at Columbus Circle. | YANNIC RACK
Despite reports fear might keep crowds down at the parade, a large crowd waited for the balloons at Columbus Circle. | YANNIC RACK

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