City leaders: Holiday weekend Stone Arch Bridge security measures ‘sign of the times’

Stone Arch Bridge security

Stone Arch Bridge security

City leaders in Minneapolis are hoping for a very different Fourth of July this year after a chaotic end to the holiday weekend on and around the Stone Arch Bridge in 2022 culminating in an overnight shooting at Boom Island Park that sent more than a half-dozen people to the hospital.

“With the great help of the Minneapolis Police Department and the Park Police, that will not happen again,” Ward 3 City Council Member Michael Rainville said in an interview by the Stone Arch Bridge on Tuesday afternoon.

The bridge has been closed to the public from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. since Friday, and it’s scheduled to close once more for the Fourth of July holiday.

“There is a group of youth that are consistently causing mayhem in Dinkytown, the Stone Arch Bridge,” Rainville said. “We have to do something to protect it.”

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, which made the decision to close the bridge, received some pushback over its plan to avoid a repeat of last year.

“They’re closed because not only were there serious incidents last July Fourth with folks shooting off not just firecrackers, but aiming them at people and at buildings and at cars, but we’ve also had issues like that throughout last summer and into this year already,” Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board spokesperson Dawn Sommers said, explaining the reasoning for the closure in a separate interview on Monday.

“So far it’s going smoothly,” she said.

Sommers, in an email on Tuesday, confirmed that’s still the case. She also reported an incident-free Monday night at Boom Island Park where thousands attended a laser light show.

The night was not completely free of fireworks being set off where they shouldn’t, but by and large the riverfront has been calmer over the extended holiday weekend so far.

“This is a sign of the times we’re in,” Rainville said when asked for his thoughts on the additional security measures. “Police are not the answer to everything. So you’re going to see more fences, temporary barricades such as this.”

Asked if the move to close the bridge overnight is a “slippery slope” of impacting law-abiding citizens — in this case, those who use the bridge as a walking or biking path — Rainville said, “The vast, vast majority of the response I’ve gotten has been in favor of this because people want to be safe and they understand a little inconvenience.”

“What I prefer is that the youth behave themselves and not have gunfights and throw explosives at people on the Stone Arch Bridge, in Dinkytown,” he added. “That’s my first choice, but as as an adult and as a government official, public safety is important.”

The city does not have plans, at this point, for additional barricades or to close the chain-link gates at Stone Arch Bridge beyond the holiday, Rainville said, adding that it warrants further analysis of reports from the weekend by city leaders first.

In a statement, Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara said, “There will continue to be a visible police presence and strategic street closures” Tuesday night.

“MPD officers will be on the lookout for those using fireworks in ways that endangers lives or property,” he said.