Surge in illegal fireworks, including attack on homeless man, unnerves residents, brings crackdown

The incident takes place amid an uptick in firework usage across the country

Last Updated:
June 23, 2020 - 6:29pm

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    A sharp increase in illegal fireworks being ignited in cities across the country has turned dangerous in recent days, with an attack on a sleeping homeless man in New York City resulting in burns on the victim’s back. 

    The surge comes amid continuing unrest as a result of George Floyd’s death on May 25 and residents forced inside their home for roughly 13 weeks as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 

    The most dangerous incident so far appears to be the one Monday night in south Harlem, in which a man appears to light a firework, then toss it at the sleeping homeless man. 

    The video, posted on Twitter by the New York City Police Department, has gotten over 79,000 views and sparked outrage among those on the social media platform. 

    “This is pure evil!!!!,” wrote one viewer. “Please let this homeless man be ok.”

    The attack occurred as officials in Seattle try to dismantle an area overtaken by activists, known as the CHOP zone, after three shootings inside the area since the weekend and on the same night protesters tried to remove a statue of Andrew Jackson outside of the White House.

    President Trump responded Tuesday morning by saying if states cannot handle such problems the federal government is “ready, willing and able.” 

    New York City has reportedly received over 12,500 calls to its 911 system for illegal fireworks so far in June, according to The New York Times. The number is roughly 12 times the number of comparable calls received by the city in the first six months of 2019, police told the newspaper. 

    On Tuesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, already under fire for demonstrations in recent weeks related to Floyd’s death that resulted in looting and injuries to police officers, announced a crackdown on the illegal fireworks. 

    “We’re going to go at it hard now and address it immediately,” said de Blasio, who purportedly will go after illegal fireworks suppliers to help stop the problem.

    The District of Columbia is facing a similar situation, which is expected to get worse as the Fourth of July approaches. A resident told The Washington Post that children aimed fireworks directly at her moving car.  

    Surges in the lighting of fireworks are also being reported in such states as California and North Carolina. Laws prohibiting them vary in cities and states, but most generally allow sparklers but not the more explosive fireworks like cherry bombs and Roman candles. 

    Those who argued the surge is unrelated to Floyd’s death at police hands in Minneapolis point to Ohio-based Phantom Fireworks reportedly saying sales increased two weeks before Floyd’s death.


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