The reverberations of Cheektowaga’s Independence Day mayhem, which began well before dusk Friday with unruly youths fighting in Town Park, continued Monday in Council Chambers.
For the second time in four years, lawmakers will consider additional changes – or even cancellation – for the annual family event in the Harlem Road park.
The festival’s midway rides and games were cut after the 2011 festivities, when police were forced to deal with crowds and fights. But those same conditions returned last week.
“Basically they had a riot in that park that moved outside the park into the neighborhood,” said John Marriott, who spoke Monday to the Town Board on behalf of the Town Park Community Association. “The police were overwhelmed; it was a mess.”
Town Supervisor Mary Holtz said town officials already have spoken briefly with Police Chief David Zack. Lawmakers are waiting for an incident report from police before further discussions, which will include the public.
“For us to speak now would not be good,” Holtz said. “We know there was a problem.”
Marriott, who said he watches the fireworks from his nearby home, said he listened to reports about the mayhem on his police scanner. “The scanner never stopped going until after midnight,” he said.
Two boys – a 13-year-old carrying a pellet gun and a 16-year-old who pulled a knife on police officers – were arrested, Assistant Police Chief James Speyer said earlier Monday.
The younger boy was referred to Erie County Family Court; the older one, identified only as a Cheektowaga resident, was charged with menacing and criminal possession of a weapon.
“What we had was a bunch of kids showed up there that were not interested in the fireworks,” said Speyer, who said he wasn’t at the park that night. While families were spread out across the ball diamonds to watch the display, the youths congregated on the road that runs through the park.
“These kids started fighting with each other – individual fights, not gang against gang,” Speyer said. “It got to the point where these kids were just ruining it for everyone else.”
“We ejected a lot of kids ... even before the fireworks started,” Speyer said.
During the course of the evening, town police called in state police and the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority Police Department to help disperse hundreds of youths.
Through a years-old arrangement, some Buffalo police were stationed at the border to help control the flow of people back into the city.
When the youths flooded the neighboring streets, eight vehicles were damaged, Speyer said.
Marriott said he heard reports of kids jumping on the roofs and hoods of cars.