Walt Handelsman: Crushed

Louisiana probably has more festivals per capita than any other place in America, maybe even the world. These local celebrations of regional culture are a great way to affirm civic bonds and celebrate what unites people from all walks of life.

Given that reality, we’re especially grieved and horrified that anyone would use an occasion of community fun and togetherness to perpetrate violence. That’s what happened over the weekend when an apparently disturbed gunman opened fire at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California, killing three people, including a 6-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl. At least a dozen other people were injured in the attack before police shot the assailant to death.

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Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that a mass murderer would be drawn to a festival. Sick souls bent on destruction naturally prefer crowded places where they can find a plenitude of easy targets.

That reality should be a concern to festival organizers across the country, including those who organize Louisiana’s many events. Security at such community gatherings is essential, although the sad truth is that crimes like the shooting rampage in Gilroy can’t be completely prevented.

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The good news is that even in a world touched by tragic bloodshed, most festivals remain peaceful. It would be a shame if Louisianans dampened their zeal for festivals in answer to horrors like Gilroy.

In a world that too often seems broken, we need the civic solidarity celebrated by festivals more than ever.