In the moments following Pittsburgh’s Independence Day fireworks celebration at the Point last year, four people were shot near Liberty Avenue and 7th Street.

One of the victims was 15 years old.

The shooting and other corresponding violence placed a black mark on an otherwise successful event.

But according to Sonya Toler, public information officer for the city’s department of public safety, this year’s Fourth of July celebration Downtown was “a marked improvement over last year.

“Everyone returned home without having the trauma of a gunfight in Downtown,” Toler told the New Pittsburgh Courier in an exclusive interview.

But the fact that no one was shot doesn’t mean all was well. Many spectators told the New Pittsburgh Courier there were a number of minor fights occurring in the moments after the Fireworks Grand Finale, most involving African American teens.

Youth hanging out on the corner not at the bus stop right before another fight broke out. (Photo by J.L. Martello)

“We did have an issue with, apparently, juveniles who came Downtown looking to fight,” Toler confirmed. “Gone is the time when teenagers” sometimes settled differences on possibly a playground or elsewhere, and “now for some reason they think it’s OK to come into (Downtown) and settle their differences,” Toler told the Courier. “We’ve been working with a group of people from a variety of backgrounds on how we are going to address this issue because it’s not just this special event when this happens, it’s during the school year as well.”

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