Seattle Mayor Concerned About New Year's Eve Risk

July 7, 2008 - 8:02 PM

Seattle, WA (CNSNews.com) - Seattle Mayor Paul Schell has canceled most New Year's Eve celebrations around the Space Needle, on concerns that the event could be a target for terrorists. "We are comfortable that Seattle is not a target" said Schell, "but the FBI can't assure us that there is no risk."

The risk of terrorism was heightened two weeks ago with the arrest of a man in Port Angeles, Washington, who was allegedly smuggling in 200 pounds of explosives from Canada. Customs officials say the man also had reservations for a hotel across the street from the Space Needle for New Year's Eve.

The mayor met with several city council members along with police and fire agencies Monday evening before making the decision. He said the main concern "was first for the safety of our citizens; first, second and third."

Seattle City Councilman Jim Compton added, "No loss of a big party is worth the loss of one life." More than 50,000 people were expected to attend this year's millennium celebration.

Schell said the cancellation of the nighttime celebrations is "the prudent thing to do for the citizens of Seattle" after the World Trade Organization meetings earlier this month. Several protests over the WTO meetings let to street rioting and arrests of more than 600 people.

Schell and Seattle police chief Norm Stamper were criticized for the way they handled the protests. Stamper later announced his retirement.

A private party atop the Space Needle will continue on the night of December 31st, but the rest of the area will be locked down starting at 6 p.m. An afternoon concert and a circus performance will go on as scheduled. A fireworks display on top of the Needle will also take place at midnight.