Tweets spelled trouble for Grand Haven ahead of July 4th

Posted at 6:03 PM, Jul 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-04 18:17:18-04

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. – Another summer, another Fourth of July weekend disrupted by chaos on the beaches of West Michigan.

Last year, hundreds of disorderly beach goers were caught on video brawling, hurling objects and using profanity on South Beach in South Haven. Now, almost a year to the day, Grand Haven State Park saw a similar scene unfold.

Monday evening, witness reports state that a few hundred people were gathering around in a circle on the state park’s beach. Viewers told FOX17 it initially appeared to be some sort of dance off, but before long, several dozen members of the group began fighting, prompting a shutdown of the beach entirely.

“We had to call 911 for more cops to show up. It was out of control,” one witness, wishing to remain anonymous, told FOX17 in a Facebook message today. “We just sat down to eat dinner but it was ruined by the careless crowd.”

That same viewer provided video of the incident, showing the aftermath of the large brawl.

Tuesday though, authorities were ready. Alongside Ottawa County Sheriff’s deputies and regular park staff, Michigan Department of Natural Resources provided added staff of their own, along with members of the division’s law enforcement branch.

“We don’t have the numbers of permanent staff to do that, so we need this extra added support,” said Gary Jones, with the DNR’s Parks and Recreation Department. “When you have a large incident like last night, it’s unfortunate because all of our rules are in place really so that everyone can come out and enjoy this beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline.”

Even before the fighting began, signs that Grand Haven could be the setting for a disturbance were spelled out on Twitter.

Police had turned their focus to South Haven this year, implementing bag checks and other safety measures to avoid a repeat. It was much of the same Tuesday in Grand Haven – cooler checks and bag searches were all but mandatory for everyone.

“we’re asking to search their coolers because of the issues that we had last night,” said Sgt. Jeff Rabber, a Michigan Conservation Officer at the state park Tuesday. “Unfortunately we’re finding a lot of alcohol and other violations and that’s probably one of the major factors in what happened.”

Authorities believe the incident last year in South Haven and this most recent disturbance in Grand Haven could be linked, but are still working to determine any concrete connection.