ST PAUL, Minn. — St. Paul police say they're increasing security at the Hmong International Freedom Festival this weekend, in the wake of threats circulating on social media.
At a news conference on Wednesday afternoon, St. Paul Police Commander Shari Falkowski said they are aware of threats and they share the community's concerns.
"It appears that the threats are being made by a small group of people and we’re taking them very seriously," she said. "While we know that the vast majority of the people planning to attend the event are going to enjoy a great cultural experience with food, competition and fun, that’s why we're not going to let a small group of people ruin it for everyone."
Falkowski said they will have a "very robust police presence" at the event. "Some of it which you'll see and some of it you won't see," she said.
Police are "aggressively investigating the threats," which existed both on social media and on a flyer left on some cars. The flyer appears to call for revenge in retaliation to a homicide at the 2018 Hmong Freedom Festival.
St. Paul police say they are asking anyone with information to come forward. They are working to figure out the validity of the flyer and the "intent" behind it.
Police Commander Sheila Lambie said they had already increased security after a homicide at the Hmong festival last year. But she said they've added "extra measures" since receiving this new information.
Lambie emphasized that the public is still encouraged to come to the event July 6-7.
"Come out, enjoy wonderful food, wonderful culture, great vendors selling items, wonderful soccer games, different activities happening here, and we really would love to see people come out to this family event," Lambie said.
Police are asking attendees to:
- Expect longer lines for security
- Limit bags and other personal items
- Say something if they see something suspicious
Peter Pha with The United Hmong Family, which puts on the festival, said they have 40,000 to 60,000 people attend annually.
"It should be a family event, it should be a fun event, and I would love to welcome every single one to come here," he said on Wednesday.