We Maintain Decision Based on Safety Concerns
June 24, 2019 09:11 AM
We are thankful to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office for their involvement and for their finding that there was no criminal intent/threat to staff, officials, or the 2019 Civil War Days event. Their investigation aligns with our interpretation that there were no DIRECT threats made.
To be clear, at no time did we say there were any direct or criminal threats, rather, there were significant safety concerns. The Sheriff’s Office finding does not change our conclusion that the second cancellation was a prudent safety decision.
Following the initial cancellation on June 10, within hours the story spread on social media and news outlets locally and nationwide. The original cancellation of the event drew strong emotional response from both supporters and non-supporters.
Lake County Forest Preserves staff became aware of several groups from other parts of the nation that were planning to attend the event with the intention to use it as a platform. With emotions running high, staff was concerned that what might start out peacefully could escalate into an unsafe situation.
There were thousands of comments and messages on social media and news articles along with emails and phone calls, many that included hateful, offensive or suggestive language that caused concern for safety. References included: coming to the event armed and prepared to fight; tying people to trees to teach a lesson; using this occasion to repeat a specific historical conflict where civilians were killed; expecting the event to get ugly and not giving up without a fight; daring someone to start something and, if that happened, it would escalate because attendees would have weapons.
These concerns were taken into consideration in relation to logistics of this complex educational event, including large crowds, live animals, and Civil War-era weaponry, which takes place at a 2,835-acre preserve—the county’s largest—with countless points of entry. Also, reenactors spend two nights camping on the property for the event. These logistics were crucial to the decision.
After many discussions, key event and public safety staff decided all of these issues together warranted a second cancellation, which occurred on June 24. We are aware of how meaningful this event is to many people. It was a difficult decision to cancel an annual event that our staff and volunteers were three weeks away from hosting. However, our number one concern is safety; public safety, the safety of the reenactors and vendors, as well as our staff and volunteers operating the event. Due to the totality of the situation, we did not feel confident that participants would be safe or could feel safe.
Again, these safety concerns were specific to this year’s event. The Lake County Forest Preserves works tirelessly to provide safe preserves for recreation, education, and enjoyment.
Ty Kovach, Executive Director, akovach@LCFPD.org, Office: 847-968-3338; Cell: 847-370-9499