The Brief: An increase in fireworks being set off across the United States has some people speculating that government organizations including police forces are planting pyrotechnics in communities to desensitize people to the sounds of war.


Weeks before the Fourth Of July, residents across the United States have reported witnessing an excess of fireworks going off, especially in cities. According to Slate, New York City’s 311 data shows a 920% increase in fireworks complaints in May 2019 vs. May 2020. Discussions on social media platforms from Nextdoor to Twitter to Facebook are blowing up as concerned citizens discuss possible reasons for this increase. In addition to citing boredom due to stay-at-home orders and a rise in fireworks sales, some people are rallying behind conspiracy theories that fireworks are being planted in communities to justify increased policing and violence from the state.

Several articles have pointed to the pandemic contributing to an increase in fireworks usage which is exacerbated as the companies that sell them are pushing pyrotechnics to consumers to make up for lost income from now-canceled professional fireworks shows. Various conspiracy theories suggest that an additional reason for this increase is that Psy-Ops, far-right extremists, police, and/or fire departments are planting fireworks in working-class Black and Brown neighborhoods. The idea is that these groups are intentionally placing them in these communities to disrupt communities, desensitize people to the sounds of explosions, and provide justification for police intervention.

As these theories become more widespread, they’re sparking discussion online about their validity. Many Twitter threads connect this assertion to the histories of violence enacted by police in Black and Brown communities and heightened scrutiny of the police in the wake of Black Lives Matter protests across the country. One common historical comparison to the fireworks conspiracy theory is allegations that the CIA was involved in supplying crack-cocaine to Black communities in Los Angeles in the 1980s.

Fireworks conspiracy theories have been met with backlash from people who argue that the pandemic is the cause of increased pyrotechnic activity and that claims connecting the government to the fireworks are baseless. Others have refuted the theory by denying that there is a significant increase in fireworks going off.

So far, official sources have not fully explained videos showing fireworks being set off near NYPD and LAFD precincts and battalions.