Bomb squad drafted on to New York streets for return of Thanksgiving parade

Having been hit by the coronavirus pandemic last year, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade returned yesterday, but the proceedings were still tempered by precautions.

Balloons, floats, marching bands, clowns and performers – and, of course, Santa Claus – made their way along 4km of Manhattan streets, instead of being confined to one block last year.

Spectators, shut out in 2020, could line the route again amid tight security. High school and college marching bands from around the country were invited back to the line-up; most of last year’s performers were locally based to cut down on travel.

The giant balloons, tethered to vehicles last year, were getting their costumed handlers back.

“Last year was obviously symbolic. It wasn’t everything we would have liked to see in a parade, but they kept it going,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

“This year, the parade’s back at full strength.”

The Thanksgiving parade is the latest US holiday event to make a comeback as vaccines, familiarity and sheer frustration made officials and some of the public more comfortable with big gatherings amid the ongoing pandemic.

Still, safety measures continued. Parade staffers and volunteers had to be vaccinated against Covid-19 and wear masks, although some singers and performers could shed them.

The event also comes days after an SUV driver ploughed through a Christmas parade in suburban Milwaukee, killing six people and injuring over 60. Authorities said the driver, who has been charged with intentional homicide, was fleeing after a domestic dispute.

Mr De Blasio said there was no credible, specific threat to the Thanksgiving parade, but the New York Police Department’s security measures were extensive, as usual.

“I’m very confident in what the NYPD has prepared to keep everyone safe,” he said. Thousands of police officers were assigned to the parade route, from streets to rooftops. Cars were blocked from the parade route with sand-filled garbage trucks, other heavy vehicles and approximately 163,000kg of concrete barriers.

Bomb-detecting dogs, bomb squad officers, heavy-weapons teams, radiation and chemical sensors and over 300 extra cameras were also being dispatched to the parade route, NYPD Chief of Counterterrorism Martine Materasso said.

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