Violent Wis. State Fair on minds of Ill. organizers

August 11, 2011 4:17:29 PM PDT
The Illinois State Fair kicks off Thursday night in Springfield with a twilight parade and preview night.

Illinois' fair begins as the Wisconsin State Fair winds down, and that fair was marred by violence. In this Intelligence Report: What Illinois is doing in response. Investigative Reporter Chuck Goudie has been looking into that.

As the annual Illinois Fair is beginning, state police officials in Springfield tell the I-Team that they have compared notes with authorities in Wisconsin about the violence they endured on the opening night of that fair to north. There were 11 violent incidents a week ago at the Milwaukee fair, all of them with racial undercurrents.

As the promo for this year's Illinois Fair features scenes of joy and glee, sheep shearing and corn dogs, and live state fair webcams Thursday afternoon show Main Street spruced up and ready for the opening night parade, even before the first Twinkie is deep fried in Springfield, what happened last week at the Wisconsin State Fair hangs heavy over organizers in Illinois.

On their opening night in Milwaukee, 31 people were arrested and at least 11 were injured during fracases scattered across the grounds.

Thursday afternoon, West Allis, Wisconsin, police say they have arrested an African-American teenager from Milwaukee who has reportedly told detectives he targeted white attendees at the fair because they were easy targets. The 16-year-old, now charged with robbery, could face additional hate crime charges.

Police presence at the Wisconsin fair greatly increased during the past week and strict limits were put on teenage attendance after 5 p.m.

Those restrictions will not be in effect at the Illinois fair, according to state police in Springfield, nor will there be an increased presence by Illinois State Police and Sangamon County Police.

Authorities in Springfield say they believe the Milwaukee violence resulted from fights between two rival gangs and there is no concern it will spill southward into Illinois.

Illinois State Police say they have a solid security plan with the sheriff's department downstate operating a command center at the fair and Springfield city police providing a transport vehicle to take any arrestees to the lock-up.

State police say, from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. they concentrate 15 to 20 officers and a canine unit by the exits to the main parking lots.

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