Pittsburgh's Juneteenth Celebration In Jeopardy After Organizers Billed For Security

Organizers of the Juneteenth celebration say the event is in jeopardy after Pittsburgh Public Safety sent them a big bill for security. KDKA's Paul Martino has more.

Video Transcript

KEN RICE: Organizers of this year's Juneteenth celebration say the event is in jeopardy after Pittsburgh Public Safety sent them a big bill for security.

KRISTINE SORENSEN: Juneteenth organizers say the $140,000 tab for police is something they can't afford and never had to pay before. But Paul Martino reports the city is trying to reduce costs. Paul is live at Point State Park. Paul--

PAUL MARTINO: Yeah. Christine, that event is scheduled for the weekend of June 19, expected to attract tens of thousands to Downtown Pittsburgh. But event organizers say if they're forced to pay $140,000 for police, they'll cancel.

Juneteenth is considered America's second Independence Day. It marks the date when chattel slavery ended and the 13th Amendment began.

BILL MARSHALL: This year we plan to have a great Juneteenth celebration, because the city of Pittsburgh made Juneteenth a holiday, along with the county making Juneteenth a holiday.

PAUL MARTINO: Organizer B. Marshall says they've been holding Juneteenth celebrations in Pittsburgh since 2013. It's the first time they got a huge bill for police protection. Marshall calls it sabotage.

BILL MARSHALL: And if they want $140,000, we'll probably have to cancel the event. We can't pay that. We don't have money like that.

PAUL MARTINO: But in a statement from Mayor Peduto late today, he says he's a staunch supporter of the event. He points out that when it was made a Pittsburgh holiday, it cost the city more than $600,000. The mayor denies sabotaging the event, even helped them obtain the use of the park, stages, and bleachers. As for that $140,000, Peduto calls it a preliminary invoice. He says the cost will be reduced greatly.

BILL MARSHALL: I'm just waiting. I'm going to give it until about Friday. If I don't hear anything by Friday, then we probably have to cancel some of these events.

PAUL MARTINO: And among the things that could be canceled, a vaccination clinic for attendees, some big musical acts, like the Ohio Players and Rose Royce. Meantime, a lot of people are coming in for the event from out of town. There's already a lot of hotel rooms booked downtown, several hotels, in fact. And the city still trying to get together with organizers now to see if they can figure this all out. Reporting live from The Point, Paul Martino, KDKA. News.