|8/25/2015 5:46:00 PM ||Email this article Print this article |
|Security Issues At The J4 Sports Tournament|
By Mai Kou Xiong
The 35th Annual Hmong International Freedom Celebration, or simply known as J4, was held over the Fourth of July weekend. Hosted by Lao Family Foundation, this year's theme was the celebration of the Hmong 40th year of Diaspora.
|Long lines to enter the J4 Sports Tournament|
|Women's Flag Football Photo By Mai Kou Xiong|
A parade for all sponsors of the event, unfurling a giant American flag by hundreds of volunteers, and a beer garden by Destiny Café were added activities. Despite what seemed to be yet another successful year, the celebration cannot escape controversial issues that loomed during and in its aftermath.
Early J4 goers posted pictures on social media warning others of the hours of waiting in line to gain entry into the vicinity of the festival. Tzianeng Vang, the CEO of the celebration, explained on social media that the "Combination of the larger J4 2015 crowds in the early morning and the fact that our security measures put in place did not provide sufficient checking in personnel and equipment some of the admission gates were closed temporarily and/or that the flow of traffic was slow or stand still. The hours from 06:00 - 07:00 am were meant for the vendors, athletes and other personnel only."
Nou Yang, the LFC personnel in charge of security planning explained that Lao Family hired EPG Security out of Minneapolis. This was the first time EPG Security had provided security at the J4 event and the organization was not ready to handle the large crowd that attended this year. According to Nou Yang, all security personnel on site were exhausted from the long hours and the large crowd.
In 3HmongTV's interview with members of LFC, they explained that EPG failed to have enough hand-held metal detectors on site. LFC was told by St. Paul Police if people were not properly searched and checked, they would not be allowed to enter until all protocols were followed. The police gave LFC two options, to either shut down the whole event or to have people wait until security had the proper equipment.
An anonymous J4 spectator said he was checked-in by a minor on the early morning of July 4th. He felt this is a cause for safety concern and questioned if a child is qualified and has had the proper training to check for contra bands and other prohibited items.
Tickets were also being sold outside of the check-in gates, which were stopped years ago due to accountability. Txawj Toog Phab, the event chair, said he authorized tickets to be sold to people in line in order to bring in enough small change to be used at the gate.
Per the LFC board members report, they believed this was the highest attended event in the history of J4. They believed the multiple Hmong organization reunions in Minnesota contributed to the higher attendance this year. LFC explained that in past years, six buses were used to transport people to and from the event. This year however, eight buses were used. Even with an increase in buses, they were not able to transport the estimated 60,000 attendees in a timely manner, which contributed to the long lines.
Re-entry into the field was another cause of concern for festival goers. Sandra Yang, a spectator, posted a video on Facebook ranting of being denied re-entry. The video quickly went viral within the Hmong community. Suab Hmong News reported that Sandra Yang tried to enter the field on the early evening of July 5th to pick up her child, however, she and many other spectators was denied re-entry by security officers.
Sandra Yang said, "I got a stamp on my arm on the way out from the gate and was told that I could get in free with the stamp on my arm. When I got back to the gate at around 6:40 PM, I was told by the Security Officer, at the gate, that the gates are closed and no one was allowed to get in because there were no more security personnel working at the gate to check people in."
According to posts on social media, senior citizens had to pay the entrance fee, where in the past, they were allowed in for free. Nou Yang explained that the board approved free access only to those in wheel chairs. Spectators who arrived after 6:00 PM were charged as well, but were admitted in free of charge in the past years. These changes prompted anger and mistrust among festival goers. They felt they were not notified of such changes.
LFC is open to feedback and recommendations to improve next year's J4 celebration.
Sports Championship Update
Men Flag Football
First place--Team Demons
Second place--Team Aftermath
Third place--Team Villagers and TCF
Women's Flag Football
First place--Team Showren
Second place--Team Bellatrix
Third place--Team Blitz
Sepak Takraw (kab tob)
First place--Team Tub Laus
Second place--Team J4
First place--Team Elite
Second place--Team Lady Warrior
Third place--Team Monarch
First place--Team Silencer (WI)
Second place--Team Chronics (MN)
Third place--Team Club 29 (WI)
Senior Men's Soccer
First place--Team Lao Savanh
Second place--Team Twin City Soccer Club
Third place--Team Tornado
First place--Team Scorpions (CO)
Second place--Team Hmong USA (MN)
Third place--Team Kaj Siab (WI)
First place--Team Infamous
Second place--Team Fusion
Third place--Team Divine
First place--Team California
Second place--Team Ghost Shadow
Third place--Team Prime Time
St. Paul, MN
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