Chaos at the carnival

April 17, 2017

Revere’s annual spring carnival is a well-intentioned effort that may have made its final appearance at the Showcase Cinema complex following Sunday’s gunshot incident.

Fortunately, no one was hurt or killed after shots were fired Easter evening, shattering glass in cars parked in the Showcase parking lot.

Social media descriptions of the shooting’s immediate aftermath described “mass hysteria erupting” as frightened carnival-goers fled to the street, children in tow, or cowered inside the cinema under orders from police who, according to news reports, were initially told the person responsible for the shooting hid inside a theater.

The Easter gunfire bears similarities to the 2015 incident at the carnival that resulted in three arrests. A Revere police lieutenant described how the 2015 incident escalated “almost to the point where the crowd got completely out of control.”

The 2015 disturbance and Sunday night’s gunfire drew police officers from Revere and surrounding communities who poured into the parking lot, some armed with assault weapons. Traffic backed up in Copeland Circle as police blocked off the exit to the cinema complex and carnival and moviegoers, their holiday evenings abruptly terminated, made their way on foot through the circle and down Squire Road.

Mayor Brian Arrigo interrupted his Patriots Day Monday to declare city officials are evaluating the carnival’s future inside Revere city limits. He praised the police response and the crowd’s overall calm demeanor, calling the chaos that followed the shooting “hectic and confusing.”

What’s next for Revere carnival after shooting?

Arrigo knows the nightmare his administration and his city could have faced if the shooting resulted in a stampeding crowd and fatalities. The image of panicked people pouring onto the streets with wailing children is enough to fill television screens for days and send cold chills down an elected official’s spine.

Sadly, the repeated problems plaguing the carnival are dooming a great cause. The carnival operated on the Showcase lot for three weeks without significant problems until its last night literally ended with a bang.

Carnival proceeds help support the McCarthy-Trifone Recreation Committee’s assistance to  seven local Revere youth organizations. Carnival producer Fiesta Shows, Showcase and the committee work together to help kids.

The shooting is a classic example of a bad incident by one person or a few ruining a good time for many people who just wanted to wrap up the Easter weekend with a movie or a little warm weather fun.

Arrigo will be acting as a prudent city leader if he decides the carnival cannot make a repeat performance in 2018 on the Showcase parking lot. Public safety may dictate that it be replaced by a smaller, more manageable event.

Another way to make the carnival safer is to make it a truly home-grown event with participation from a large number of Revere residents. Separating the carnival with adequate security measures from the Showcase Cinema complex and giving residents a role with police in keeping the carnival safe might go a long way to removing fear, chaos and confusion from the annual event.

The spring carnival is a fun tradition benefiting a great cause. But the carnival’s return to Revere next year will depend on more people taking responsibility to make it safer and more family oriented.