Fireworks going off in cities across the US spark conspiracy theories


Several major cities across the US have reported a major uptick in complaints about deafening fireworks.In New York City, Gothamist reported there were 6,385 total firework complaints made between June 1 and June 19, up 236 times from the 27 complaints made during the same time period last year.Some have blamed coronavirus quarantine-fueled restlessness and a longing for canceled July 4 events for the uptick in massive displays rattling city residents. But the upward trends in fireworks have also sparked sinister — and baseless — conspiracy theories that claim they are an elaborate psychological attack on minorities from the government.Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

New York City has had a busy few months, first serving as the epicenter of the novel coronavirus and then, in recent weeks, becoming one of the epicenters for massive protests over George Floyd’s death.Now, the latest addition to unpredictable city life seems to be deafening fireworks.Gothamist reported that the city’s 311 information line saw 6,385 firework complaints between June 1 to June 19, 236 times the amount of calls made during the same time period last year.It’s not only the number of complaints that has raised alarms, but also the types of fireworks that are sparking such complaints.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams told Gothamist/WNYC that after assessing the fireworks, he found “extremely sophisticated” and “elaborate devices,” that go beyond “simple firecrackers and little small toy-type rockets,” to create “large displays along Brooklyn and in Manhattan.”Michael Ford, a piano teacher who lives in Inwood north of Manhattan, echoed Adams’ conclusion, telling the New York Times what he had seen “are not your normal kids playing with fireworks.””These are real explosives, like Macy’s style fireworks,” he told the Times, pointing to the city’s extravagant July 4 fireworks show in celebration of Independence Day.The phenomenon has reportedly gone bi-coastal in the last few weeks, as similar spikes in complaints have been reported in Boston and New Haven, Connecticut, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Los Angeles.

With a rise in complaints and no single explanation, an anti-government conspiracy theory caught fire on social media over the weekend.Though it’s not clear where the theories first originated, Brooklyn writer Robert Jones Jr., also known on Twitter as @SonofBaldwin, posted a thread Saturday that claimed in a series of tweets without evidence that government officials were behind the fireworks, carrying out an elaborate “psychological warfare” on “Black and Brown people.”The thread said fireworks were being deployed to desensitize people to the sound of artillery, in addition to capitalizing on sleep deprivation to hinder the Black Lives Matter movement. “It sounded like war,” wrote Jones Jr., who did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment.

The thread quickly went viral along with other hypotheses, including a video that appeared to show fireworks being launched nearby an NYPD precinct and footage posted online showing a group of firefighters lighting a standing firework in front of a Brooklyn fire station. An FDNY spokesperson told Insider the matter remains under investigation. The NYPD did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment. The idea that law enforcement officers or government entities were setting off the displays comes on the heels of heightened tensions between citizens and police officers after weeks of anti-racism and police brutality protests.Some who have batted down the theory floated their own: that a surplus of quarantine boredom spilling over into a summer tradition. Brooklyn Borough President Adams told Gothamist that while fireworks are illegal in the city, he didn’t believe there was a “diabolical plot.”

“I’m not seeing any diabolical plot being planned out by the police department or some unit in the police department,” he told the outlet. “I don’t buy that. I believe that there is a clear pathway of illegal fireworks into the city.”A 24-year-old man known only identified as Djani told the Times that he and his friends were launching rockets in Crown Heights to mark having come this far in the coronavirus pandemic.”We’re basically celebrating the fact that we survived,” Djani told the Times, adding that he felt lighting the illegal fireworks was a sign of defiance against the police.As the US approaches a firework-free July 4, all of the fireworks sold in what American Pyrotechnics Association executive director Julie Heckman called a ” banner year” for sales will have to go somewhere.

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