BOSTON-More than 10 blinking electronic devices planted at bridges and other spots in Boston threw a scare into the city Wednesday in what turned out to be a publicity campaign for late-night cable cartoon Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Most if not all of the devices depict a character giving the finger.
Aqua Teen publicity campaign causes Boston terror scare
BOSTON-More than 10 blinking electronic devices planted at bridges and other spots in Boston threw a scare into the city Wednesday in what turned out to be a publicity campaign for late-night cable cartoon Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
Most if not all of the devices depict a character giving the finger. Boston police said Wednesday night that one person had been arrested, and authorities scheduled a news conference to provide details.
Turner Broadcasting, a division of Time Warner Inc. and the parent of Cartoon Network, said the devices were part of a promotion for Aqua Teen Hunger Force, a surreal series about a talking milkshake, a box of fries and a meatball.
“The packages in question are magnetic lights that pose no danger,” Turner said in a statement issued a few hours after reports of the first devices came in.
Turner said the devices have been in place for two to three weeks in 10 cities: Boston; New York; Los Angeles; Chicago; Atlanta; Seattle; Portland, Ore.; Austin, Texas; San Francisco; and Philadelphia.
“We regret that they were mistakenly thought to pose any danger,” the company said.
As soon as the company realized the problem, it said, law enforcement officials were told of their locations in all 10 cities. There were no reports from police Wednesday of residents in the other nine cities spotting similar devices.
Highways, bridges and a section of the Charles River in Boston were shut down and bomb squads were sent in before authorities declared the devices were harmless.
“It’s a hoax-and it’s not funny,” said Gov. Deval Patrick, who said he will speak to the state’s attorney general “about what recourse we may have.”
The marketing firm that put them up has been ordered to remove them immediately, said Turner Chairman Phil Kent.
“We apologize to the citizens of Boston that part of a marketing campaign was mistaken for a public danger,” Kent said. “We appreciate the gravity of this situation and, like any responsible company would, are putting all necessary resources toward understanding the facts surrounding it as quickly as possible.”
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said he will seek to punish those responsible, and indicated that the penalty could be two to five years in prison per count.
After Turner made its announcement, Menino said he was “prepared to take any and all legal action” against the company and its affiliates “for any and all expenses incurred during the response to today’s incidents.”
Homeland Security Department spokesman Russ Knocke praised Boston authorities for quickly sharing their knowledge with Washington officials and the public.
“Hoaxes are a tremendous burden on local law enforcement and counter-terrorism resources and there’s absolutely no place for them in a post-9/11 world,” Knocke said.
Authorities said some of the objects looked like circuit boards or had wires hanging from them.
Police said four calls, all around 1 p.m., reported devices at the Boston University Bridge and the Longfellow Bridge, both of which span the Charles River, at a Boston street corner and at the Tufts-New England Medical Center.
The package near the Boston University bridge was found attached to a structure beneath the span, authorities said.