GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The West Michigan Hispanic community is preparing for their annual festival this weekend in the wake of a mass shooting in El Paso in which the suspect is believed to have written a racist, anti-immigrant manifesto.
The annual Grand Rapids Hispanic Festival runs from Aug. 9-11 in Calder Plaza.
The Hispanic Center of Western Michigan said in light of the shooting, they are assuring neighbors that their safety and security is of high priority. The group issued this statement:
"As a reminder, the Hispanic Festival has served as a safe space to celebrate community. As in years past, we will continue to ensure everyone’s well being. We have private security, Grand Rapids Police and Kent County Sheriff Officers present during our festivities to ensure a successful weekend. We ask that everyone comply and engage with our communities officers in case of any emergency.
In solidarity with our national community, we will hold a vigil for those who recently suffered in Ohio and Texas. We will continue to work to make our communities across the country safe, vibrant, welcoming. We honor the lives of those lost by celebrating their lives, their families, and the lives of the generations to come."
A vigil will be held on Friday night at the festival to honor the victims of both the shootings in Texas and Ohio.
The Kent County Sheriff's Office said there will be large numbers of law enforcement staffing the event. Sgt. Joel Roon of the sheriff's office offered some advice to people attending the event.
"If you see a person acting or behaving oddly, look for clothing that maybe doesn't seem seasonally appropriate," Roon said, "like a long jacket, bulges, imprints in certain items under a jacket or certain types of clothing. All of those things add up to saying something to law enforcement or a volunteer or a worker."
Roon said many times people don't report suspicious behavior because they're in denial, perhaps believing that this kind of violence couldn't happen in their neighborhood. However, it unfortunately can happen which is why he says it's important to report any kind of suspicious activity to law enforcement immediately.
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