CASSOPOLIS — Even a pandemic did not stop the masses from gathering in near Cassopolis for a Fourth of July party, an event that could land organizers in trouble with the law.
Videos circulating on social media show hundreds of people splashing around in close proximity at Diamond Lake Sandbar in Cass County. The video does not show any of the attendees following social distancing guidelines and no masks are visible. Video of the event quickly went viral Saturday and gained widespread media coverage.
The Sandbar at Diamond Lake is a popular party spot for boaters and beachgoers for Fourth of July and summer parties. Organizers who did not wish to be identified told other media outlets that the party has been an annual event for about 30 years.
Cass County Sheriff Richard Behnke issued a statement Monday on the event, explaining its opposition to the gathering beforehand. According to the release, “In the months leading up to the July 4th event, the sheriff’s office tried to engage the state Department of Natural Resources in controlling this event with the permitting process. The DNR issues permits for activities on the lakes. They advised that they did not see the need for a permit for the sandbar event.”
Behnke said attempts also were made to engage with organizers, but police “found them to be confrontational and not willing to work towards a controlled event.”
According to the release, “the Cass County Prosecutor will be forwarded any and all possible criminal charges involved, to be reviewed.”
The Cass County party was one of many nationwide that drew young people in the masses to celebrate Fourth of July with little to no regard for coronavirus precautions.
Officials with the Van Buren Cass District Health Department also expressed concern. “It’s not anything we wanted to see this Fourth of July and we are generally concerned about the public letting their guard down,” said department spokesperson Danielle Persky. “Whether or not we will see a spike in cases from gatherings ... is yet to be seen. If we do a better job as a community collectively adhering to prevention measures – such as wearing face masks and social distancing (6 ft.) – the risk of seeing case growth should be less.”