Boston’s annual India Day celebration will not return to the Charles River Esplanade this Saturday after the higher cost of increased security imposed since the Marathon bombings forced organizers to cancel the event.
The event appears to be the highest-profile Esplanade gathering to be canceled as a result of the additional, costly security required by the Department of Conservation and Recreation and Massachusetts State Police following the Boston Marathon bombings. India Day has been held for some 20 years, organizers say, and more than 10,000 people have attended in years past.
The India Association of Greater Boston said in a letter posted on its website that it is rescheduling the celebration, which commemorates the nation’s independence.
“If we elected to continue to hold this event at the Hatch Shell this year, IAGB loses more than $20,000, something that is inappropriate for a nonprofit organization,” association president Amrit Soni said in the letter.
The new security measures include bag checks at all entrances and increased police presence.
“It’s not lost on us the Esplanade was the stated original target of the Marathon bombers,” said State Police spokesman David Procopio. State Police, he said, aim to take reasonable, balanced measures to ensure safety on the Esplanade without affecting the events. “Our goal is preserve the flavor of these events. We don’t want to create an armed camp.”
Procopio said India Day’s security plan called for 27 troopers, including members of the bomb squad, K-9, and marine units, paid for 7½ hours. Because those are specialized units, troopers assigned to work the shift are paid an overtime rate of $73 an hour, rather than the $40 per hour paid for a detail assignment. Increased costs are passed on to event organizers.
“It’s not something that we take lightly or that we come up with randomly,” Procopio said. “It’s very a thoroughly researched and detailed security plan.”
An unprecedented number of state and local law enforcement agencies took part in a huge security effort for the Fourth of July celebrations on the Esplanade last month. Extra security has been put in place for smaller events, such as the EarthFest in May, where the audience underwent bag checks for the first time.
Procopio said every event at a state-owned park is reviewed to determine what security measures will be put in place based on size and type of event. Conditions at the Esplanade, such as its proximity to the Charles River and Storrow Drive and its multiple access points figured into security plans.
Organizers would have had to hire a security vendor to perform bag checks at all entrances, a measure not required for past India Day celebrations. State Police estimated the cost to be $15,330.
Soni, in the association letter, said the organization is working to find a new venue to host the celebration in September.
“We are working feverishly to locate an appropriate alternate venue and date and hope to announce one as soon as possible,” Soni said. “While it will be impossible to find a venue that provides the beautiful look and feel of the DCR Hatch Shell, we are trying our best to find a suitable alternate venue.”
While some of these added security measures are new to event organizers, they are likely to continue.
“We understand the organizers’ dilemma, and we certainly sympathize with the India Association,” Procopio said.
“But the reality is, given local and global events this year, this is the new normal for securing large outdoor events, and it will be for the foreseeable future.”