RICHMOND COUNTY, N.C. - Signs still advertise the annual Independence Day celebration in downtown Hamlet, but Monday, a day before the festivities, city leaders abruptly canceled them.
Fourth of July fun that typically packs the downtown streets of Hamlet every year with families won't happen this year.
“It kind of surprises me to see they shut an event like this down,” Harrison Davis said.
The reason for the abrupt decision to cancel the festivities and fireworks show is the threat of gang violence.
“Yeah, it's upsetting, but if you think about it, there's a lot of harmless people out here and you got a lot of people that's got families,” Cody Locklear said.
Hamlet Police Chief Scott Waters said officers received credible threats from multiple people over the weekend threatening violence at the celebration.
“When it comes to public safety, why take the chance of having someone innocent to get hurt?” Waters said.
City leaders said that canceling the Fourth of July celebration upsets a lot of people, but they don't want to risk violence.
"Those risks are not worth taking for the lives of innocent citizens and visitors to our city.”
Hamlet is one of only two places that display fireworks in Richmond County on the Fourth of July, and the festivity draws thousands.
Hamlet City Manager Jonathan Blanton said officials discussed alternatives but decided it was best to cancel the annual event.
The cancellation was “a very devastating and difficult decision that we did not haphazardly rush into this morning,” Blanton said.
The police chief said his officers are meeting and forming a gang task force with law enforcement across the county.
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