Cities Boost Security For July 4th Celebrations

Originally published on July 3, 2013 4:38 pm

Big cities across the country are taking security at Independence Day festivities very seriously.

Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev reportedly told investigators he and his brother had initially planned on carrying out the attack at the Fourth of July celebrations in Boston.

On Monday, Canadian officials arrested two people for a Canada Day terror plot involving pressure cooker bombs.

Philadelphia, where the other founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776, is hosting its annual “Wawa Welcome America!” festival, which includes the “largest free concert” in America.

Mayor Michael Nutter joins us to discuss how his city is getting ready.


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I'm Robin Young. It's HERE AND NOW. Today, Canadian officials said they foiled a pressure cooker bomb plot that was much like Boston's. On Monday, two suspects were arrested, allegedly planning to attack on that day, which is Canada Day. And Boston bomb suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev reportedly told investigators that he and his brother had considered committing their attack during Boston's Fourth of July celebrations.

So security will be extraordinarily tight here in Boston. Backpacks and coolers on wheels will be banned. Thousands will go through security checks. And there will be new vigilance around the country, with national security officials issuing a bulletin calling for increased scrutiny. So let's check in in Philadelphia, at their annual Welcome America celebrations. This is a city known for big bashes. And Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter joins us. Welcome, Mr. Mayor. And tell us, how did events in Boston maybe affect your preparations in Philadelphia?

MAYOR MICHAEL NUTTER: Well, first, our thoughts and prayers and hope and concern is still with the people of Boston, an incredible tragedy that really gripped the entire nation. Our own Broad Street Run was two weeks after the Boston Marathon, and certainly, we looked at many of the things that happened in Boston and clearly upgraded our security. Fortunately, things went very, very well. When you're talking about Wawa Welcome America and our entire Fourth of July celebration, one, it's about a weeklong series of activities, a lot of public events. There will be thousands and thousands of people out.

So we have always taken this very seriously. We work with a variety of local, state and federal partners in this work, with Commissioner Ramsey and his team, the Office of Emergency Management, Sam Philips and her team. Everyone coordinated in their efforts, again, so we can have as many eyes and ears out there as possible. We want everyone to have a good time. We want everyone to be safe. But we don't take any chances, and we're very serious about security.

YOUNG: You have some extraordinary events. You have your Party on the Parkway on the Ben Franklin Parkway. You have the Made in America. How are you going to top last year's Made in America concert? That was a Jay-Z concert.

NUTTER: Yes. Well, Jay is quite the curator, and he has put together another fantastic lineup. That's for Labor Day weekend. Before that, though, of course, is our Party on the Parkway and the Fourth of July jam. That's headlined by Philly's own The Roots. Kevin Hart, who's also a hometown Philly guy, is our emcee. Jill Scott will be there. John Mayer will be there. Neyo will be there, and a bunch of other artists and actually some special guests. So, you know, it's the largest free outdoor concert in America. You know, every year, it somehow seems to top the previous year. So we're looking forward to it. It's going to be a great time out there.

YOUNG: What's specifically Philly on the Fourth? I mean, we know it's the country's first capital, the signing...


YOUNG: ...of the Declaration of Independence. So what's only in Philly?

NUTTER: The Liberty Bell, the Betsy Ross House, the - you know, I mean, it's the most historic square mile in the United States of America. It is where freedom, liberty and democracy were born. You walk the same streets that the people who created the country walked 200-plus years ago. And we're just a lot of fun, you know? We know how to do it.

YOUNG: Well, we understand you're going to have a tapping of the Liberty Bell by the descendants of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

NUTTER: Yeah. On Thursday. This is a ceremony that we've had for a long, long period of time, and there are hundreds and hundreds of people, literally, standing in line, wrapped around the corner, waiting for their opportunity to see possibly the most iconic symbol of freedom anywhere in the world, and that's, of course, the Liberty Bell. And we have the (unintelligible) tapping, not only quite symbolic, but also very, very powerful when you think about the American story.

YOUNG: Well, make sure they tap carefully, gently.

NUTTER: Oh, we're very careful.

YOUNG: It already has a crack.

NUTTER: Yes, yes. It's already cracked one or two times. So, no, they're very careful. It's just a very gentle touch.

YOUNG: That's Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. Have a safe and wonderful of Fourth, Mr. Mayor.

NUTTER: You do the same. And Happy Fourth of July to everyone.

YOUNG: OK. We'll take a break. When we come back, that surprise decision on one aspect of the health care law: the requirement that businesses with over 50 employees provide insurance. That's in one minute, HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.