Extra Security at Family Unity Day in the Park

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CLEVELAND -- Close to 20,000 people gathered at Luke Easter Park on Saturday for the 9th anniversary of Family Unity Day in the Park, concert and fireworks celebration.

For the past two years, the popular event has been marred by violence, so this year organizers took steps to keep the peace.

Organizers say it's the largest family event in the city, but this year's celebration was a little different because of the added security to prevent any violence.

"It's an event thousands of people look forward to every year says Vernon Whitmore, of Cleveland. "Good food, good time, everything is great ... fantastic."

There were several live bands and DJs to keep the crowd moving; plus, there were more than 50 vendors selling great-tasting foods.

DeAngelo Knuckles, of Cleveland, recited the menu at the big outdoor party.

"It's just beautiful. Sweet potato fries, fresh-cut chili cheese fries, you name it, it's out here, hot tamales, anything you want, popcorn, funnel cake, elephant ears ... it's like a festival without the rides," Knuckles said.

Organizers say what they didn't want at this year's event was violence, which has happened the past two years at nightfall.

In 2010, shots were fired a half mile down from the celebration, and last year, a fight among teenagers turned deadly, claiming the life of 16-year-old Sylvonte Williams.

Councilman Zack Reed, who created the event back in 2004, says he wants the violence to stop.

"Up to 100 police officers and a lot more undercover police this year after the event. We are gonna expand the perimeter out to move in the neighborhood to insure more people get home safely," Reed said.

Some people agreed with the beefed up police presence.

"I like that they have more police protection. We were affected last time by the violence; we spoke out against it; we stand strong: no violence; we are a community moving forward," Lavonia Shields, of Cleveland, said.

Like every year, the event ended with fireworks.

Since the violence previously happened in the evening, Cleveland RTA also added more buses to pick people up after the event, so they were not waiting around for buses.