Halloween festivities go on, despite terrorism warnings and parents fears

Wednesday, October 31st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (AP) _ Les Hall knows exactly what kind of mask he'll be wearing to the city's annual Halloween blowout: a gas mask.

``That way I'll be ready for everything,'' the 27-year-old waiter says.

After FBI Director Robert Mueller warned this week of the possibility of more terrorist attacks, law enforcement officials announced plans for a greater presence at public Halloween parties around the nation.

In West Hollywood, where about a quarter-million costumed revelers are expected to pack city streets, 100 or more members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department will be scattered among the crowd.

``A deputy on every corner,'' said sheriff's Sgt. Gary Griffith.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, fears of further violence have led police to focus on large gatherings, from sporting events to shopping malls. The warnings of future attacks also have worried city leaders and parents across the nation.

The mayor of Fort Worth, Texas, on Tuesday discouraged parents from letting children go trick-or-treating, suggesting parties at friends' homes, community centers or churches instead.

``I'm not suggesting we shouldn't celebrate the holiday and enjoy it; ... just use discretion,'' Mayor Kenneth Barr said.

Cindy Malcolm of Fort Worth said she was considering taking her children to a relative's Halloween party instead this year.

``I always check their candy, but this year, with all the terrorist incidents, I wouldn't be surprised if somebody tried to do something,'' she said.

Aware of parents' heightened concern and the recent anthrax scares, St. Louis County Police added a reminder to their usual Halloween safety rules: Some candies are made of powder and leave a powdery residue.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who canceled the usual trick-or-treating at the governor's mansion, also mentioned anthrax worries when he advised parents two weeks ago that keeping children off the streets at Halloween might be a good idea. The state doesn't have the resources to check ``every single Pixy Stik,'' he said.

``By all means, if something looks strange, throw it away,'' said Kansas City Police Officer Steve Young. ``It's just candy.''

Connecticut State Police and Texas prosecutors also warned pranksters to lay off this Halloween, especially with anything even remotely related to terrorism. ``There are simply no jokes anymore,'' said Richard Stephens, U.S. Attorney for the northern district of Texas.

Despite the fears, Julie Kenney of Mobile, Ala., said she plans to let her three children go trick-or-treating.

``This is a holiday that's loved by children, and you certainly don't want to frighten them or diminish their fun,'' she said.

In San Francisco, city officials are trying to encourage partygoers to attend the city's official Halloween event at the Civic Center.

``I don't think in San Francisco you can tell people not to gather for Halloween,'' said P.J. Johnston, spokesman for Mayor Willie Brown. ``I don't think the city is going to stop functioning in its normal way.''

Neither will West Hollywood, particularly this year, said Noah Bishop, a 22-year-old West Hollywood bartender.

``The community has lived in fear of different, random stuff for so long, from gay-bashing to HIV,'' Bishop said. ``I think we're over it. We're just tired of living in fear.''