Across New York City and in other large metropolitan areas of the U.S., residents have been having a lot of trouble sleeping lately. Aside from worries over police violence and a pandemic, people have been reporting loud and constant fireworks displays at all hours of the night.
While this is known to happen the week leading up to the Fourth of July and a few days after, it's been going on for weeks. According to the New York Times, reports are up 80 times from where they were last year at this time. And some troubling conspiracy theories surrounding the fireworks are starting to emerge.
Some theorize that the fireworks are a conspiracy to invoke martial law.
Several people on Twitter located in NYC have reported seeing black SUVs vending fireworks on the street for prices much lower than one would expect and of a caliber one typically doesn't find even in illegal fireworks stalls. In some cases, people have also reported seeing people light fireworks and then climb into unmarked black cars and drive away from the displays.
Several theories have started to emerge about who is selling and / or lighting these displays and the motivations behind both. Brooklyn writer Robert Jones, Jr. posted a thread about what he's been seeing in his neighborhood and some of his and neighbors' theories about the motivation.
"The media is reporting this as though it's just Black and Brown kids blowing off steam, but I don't believe that's the case," he wrote on June 20. "My neighbors and I believe that this is part of a coordinated attack on Black and Brown communities by government forces; an attack meant to disorient and destabilize the #BlackLivesMatter movement."
He went on to suggest whomever is coordinating the fireworks intends to inflict psychological warfare on residents through sleep deprivation and desensitization to the sounds of explosions.
One reason Jones and others think this is not just an unusual increase in the usual amount of illegal fireworks displays is because of the quantity and the quality of the pyrotechnics.
"We think this because there is NO WAY IN THE WORLD that young Black and Brown people would otherwise have access to these PROFESSIONAL fireworks. These are Macy's July 4th / New Year's-level displays and sonic booms reserved generally for the wealthiest people and institutions," he wrote.
In at least one case, residents of the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn reported seeing, of all people, FDNY firefighters lighting the sonic-boom-inducing displays, according to the New York Post. FDNY said they were investigating the report. But, as Jones points out, it's yet another case of an institution investigating itself for wrongdoing rather than bringing in independent investigators.
New York isn't the only city experiencing higher than usual volumes of fireworks before the Fourth. Cities across the northeast as well as Los Angeles and Seattle have also had a sharp increase in complaints over the previous year.
Some have put forth theories that the market is simply flooded with product at reduced prices due to the fact that many cities are canceling their sanctioned displays. But for many others, this simply does not explain why the explosives are turning up in neighborhoods where residents are predominantly Black, Indigenous, or people of color.
In response to those positing less nefarious explanations for the phenomenon, many of those who find the fireworks suspect point out that it wouldn't actually be new for the U.S. government, pointing to COINTELPRO.
Antiracist and other political organizers from the '50s and '60s asserted for years that they were targeted, surveilled, and attacked by the FBI. However, they were largely ignored until documents released starting in 1971 confirmed much of what had been rumored was true.