Fireworks rattle cities, draw wild theories

There’s so much about life over the last few months that was impossible to predict, even after the pandemic began to reshape nearly facet of our daily existence. For residents of cities across the country, one new development has become a loud reminder of what strange times we’re in.

“Did you have ‘mystery fireworks’ on your 2020 bingo card, after murder hornets and federal agents attacking peaceful protesters with tear gas so the president could pose in front of a church with a Bible?” asks Maura Judkis in the Washington Post.

If so, you’re a winner.

Nightly, incessant explosion of fireworks in Boston and communities across the country has added sleeplessness and, for some, trauma triggering onto whatever toll has been taken by unemployment, health worries, and the general upheaval and anxiety of life amidst a global pandemic.

The boom times for Boston’s economy have been replaced by boom times rattling windows and nerves through all hours of the night and early morning.

Mayor Marty Walsh has tried to quiet the masses, decrying the fact that complaints to police last month about fireworks — which are illegal in Massachusetts — were up 23-fold over the same period last year. Not to rub it in, given our fragile inferiority complex about all things New York, but we don’t hold a Roman candle to Gotham, where police received 80 times the number of complaints about fireworks over the first half of June this year versus the same time last year.

Most theories chalk up the surge to a combination of boredom and aggressive marketing by fireworks companies, but that’s not satisfying everyone.

One Twitter theorist, Robert Jones Jr., whose idea has gained some following on social media, has posited that police and other government agencies are supplying minority neighborhoods with arsenals of fireworks to desensitize them so that “when they start using their real artillery on us we won’t know the difference.”

But for every crackpot idea that fireworks are an organized assault on black and brown communities there seems to be one suggesting that the war-zone noises of the night are actually the soundtrack of liberation.

Giving what seems almost parodic voice to that is a recent blog post by a white woman, Penelope Trunk, who says she moved to Boston a year ago and lives in a sliver of Roxbury “between two gang territories.”

Her discovery: “This is a form of protest. And the protest is so layered in meaning and gorgeous to view that I think it qualifies as performance art,” she writes. “It’s hard to imagine a more beautiful, playful way for the black community of Boston to shine a light on the inherently oblivious nature of white people exercising privilege. And the more people complain about the disruption of peace in their neighborhood, the more profound this fireworks performance art becomes.”

City Councilor Julia Mejia is not impressed. Neither is Ron Odom, a pillar of the overwhelming black Dorchester neighborhood where his 13-year-old son, Steven, was killed in a gang shooting 13 years ago when someone walking with him was mistaken for a gang rival.

Meijia, an Afro-Latino at-large councilor, has been searching for ways to end the scourge of fireworks, which are draining thousands of Bostonians of sleep and proving particularly damaging to trauma victims like Odom, for whom the nightly barrage triggers flashbacks to the gunfire he heard from his home that claimed his son’s life.

Earlier this month, Mejia convened an online community forum to explore ways to tamp down the noise and end what she calls the “fireworks trauma.”

While some late-night revelers may be enjoying the show, the only thing woke about the 2 a.m. displays are all the people trying to sleep.

MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

A couple of people confront Gov. Charlie Baker over educational incentives contained in his police reform bill at a press conference in Mattapan dealing with a development project at the former Boston State Hospital site. (State House News)

A Globe editorial says Baker is wrong to expect a federal fix and the Legislature must pass a law curtailing “limited immunity” for police against legal claims.

State residents widely see racism as a systemic problem and favor broad policing reforms, according to a new poll. (Boston Globe)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

“Defund the police” protesters rallied outside Worcester City Hall calling on city councilors to come out and meet with them. (Telegram & Gazette) A move to defund police failed at Easton town meeting as two voters proposed amendments to transfer funds from the police budget to health and community services and the schools. (The Enterprise)

Boston police spent more than $200,000 on military-style equipment in the first five months of the year. (Boston Globe)

Haverhill Mayor Jim Fiorentini tells police to follow a “zero tolerance” approach to fireworks and to confiscate them and issue fines to anyone caught with them. (Eagle-Tribune)

Former city councilor Konstantina Lukes warns Worcester leaders against taking on further financial obligations for a new minor league ballpark amid the coronavirus crisis and need to fund essential city services. (Telegram & Gazette)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Falmouth Hospital defends its decision to close maternity, pediatric units (Cape Cod Times)

Members of the Hispanic and Latino community account for nearly half of New Bedford coronavirus cases. (Standard-Times)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Two Justice Department officials will testify to Congress today that Attorney General William Barr issued inappropriate orders based on political considerations and desire to cater to President Trump. (Washington Post)

President Trump threatens prison for people tearing down statues. (NPR)

The FBI concludes NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace was not a target of racism, saying a”noose” found in his garage at the Talladega Superspeedway had been there a long time before he arrived for a race. (MassLive)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Columbia Gas is ordered to pay a $53 million criminal fine for causing a series of natural gas explosions in Massachusetts. (Associated Press)

Major League Baseball sets a 60-game schedule to start in late July. (Associated Press)

Table games will be off the table when the state’s casinos reopen. (Boston Herald)

EDUCATION

The state’s public community colleges and four-year universities are facing serious financial challenges amid the coronavirus upheaval, according to a report commissioned by the state. (Boston Globe) UMass president Marty Meehan says the system is in “survival mode.” (Boston Herald)

Attorney General Maura Healey says schools need more money for students to succeed during the pandemic. (WGBH)

There is a racial and geographic divide in attitudes toward the reopening of K-12 schools this fall, with more black and Latino residents and citydwellers than believing it would be unsafe for children to return to in-person lessons than whites and residents of rural areas, according to a new poll. (Boston Globe)

ARTS/CULTURE

Anti-racism work climbs the agenda for Berkshire arts and business groups. (Berkshire Eagle)

With the arts and tourism economy devastated, hospitality workers in the Berkshires are in dire straits. (Boston Globe)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Springfield’s mayor and police commissioner are angry over a judge’s release of five men caught with semi-automatic weapons. Mayor Dominic Sarno says people are complaining about the city not doing enough about fireworks, but “I can’t even keep people who are shooting each other off the streets.” (MassLive)

Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan is cutting the work hours of his entire staff, including his own, to pare back costs. (Daily Hampshire Gazette)

A man who appears to be mentally unstable livestreams from the lobby of the Southborough public safety building before stabbing a police sergeant in the back. (MassLive)