Terrorist threats hang especially heavy over major cities as 2015 draws to a close.
Memories of the atrocity in Paris are fresh, along with fears of what a comparably armed and motivated terrorist squad could do to a huge throng of revelers at the New Year’s Eve celebration in a major city. Intelligence agencies in the U.S. and Europe are reportedly nervous about a terrorist threat of some kind.
Following is a list of major New Year’s Eve cancellations and restrictions:
Brussels: Belgian authorities decided to cancel the annual New Year’s Eve fireworks display in Brussels, following a string of counterterrorist raids across the country. These raids resulted in the arrest of two men from a biker gang “inspired” by ISIS who were planning a New Year’s attack, but they evidently did not represent the full extent of the threat.
Paris: The city of Paris also decided to ban fireworks, replacing them with a mere 10-minute light show projected onto the Arc de Triomphe. Citizens are reportedly choosing to stay home on New Year’s Eve in unprecedented numbers. Parisian hoteliers and restaurant owners reported a stunning 50 percent drop in bookings for the holiday night. A hotel manager is quoted by The Local saying it’s the first time in 15 years his establishment will not be fully booked for New Year’s Eve, while a caterer reported a “catastrophic” number of cancellations.
Moscow: Red Square will be closed on New Year’s Eve, a decision preposterously presented by the Kremlin as accommodating a television crew. The Moscow Times suggested that revelers repair to one of the city’s 21 parks, noting that ice-skating rinks will remain open until 3 A.M.
Vienna: Following what Austrian authorities described as a warning from a friendly, but unnamed, national intelligence service, security went on high alert for a possible terrorist attack between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Berlin: Berlin’s “party mile” between the Brandenburg Gate and Victory Column has been cordoned off since Christmas, to prepare heightened security for New Year’s Eve. According to Deutsche Welle, “backpacks, bags, suitcases, folding chairs, glass bottles, fireworks, megaphones and laser pointers are all prohibited.” Celebrants will be carefully screened at a few heavily secured entrances, and the largest security force ever deployed for New Year’s Eve will be on hand.
There is some disagreement about whether Germany’s heightened alert level has anything to do with the threat warning in Austria, but the Interior Ministry said Germany is definitely “still in the crosshairs of jihadist terrorism.”
London: Increased security in the U.K. definitely is related to the warning from Austria, which was reportedly delivered by the nameless “friendly intelligence service” to several European capitals. The UK Telegraph reported on Wednesday night that Scotland Yard has canceled all New Year leave for armed officers, for the first time ever.
New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C.: An “uncorroborated” terrorist threat against these American cities prompted the increased deployment of FBI agents and, in New York City, six thousand police officers covering Times Square for the New Year’s Eve party. New York City police commissioner Bill Bratton described the precautions as general in nature and said he was aware of no credible, specific threat at this time.
Las Vegas: The Strip draws well over 300,000 people for New Year’s Eve festivities, and they are being encouraged to leave bags, backpacks, strollers, and similar containers at home this year. At least a thousand uniformed officers, plus an undisclosed number of undercover police, will provide security. Police teams have been receiving active-shooter training at the out-of-commission Riviera casino.
Two notable New Year’s Eve shutdowns not related to terrorism: many festivities have been canceled in Shanghai after a tragic stampede at one of last year’s events left 36 people dead, and fireworks have been canceled in Victoria, Australia, due to concerns about wildfires in the region.