Barbadians safe in the arms of the law during the West Indian Labour Day parade. (Picture by Clyde Jones)
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THE DREAMS OF A West Indian carnival free of deadly violence were shattered yesterday morning when two innocent people were shot and killed during the early hours of the J’ouvert celebrations in Brooklyn.
A man and woman were shot and later pronounced dead at Brooklyn’s Kings County Hospital while three other victims survived shootings and a stabbing.
In all, four separate shootings and a stabbing were recorded by the police during J’ouvert which was staged by a different organisation from WIADCA, the sponsor of the festival of costume bands.
And a long list of officials, ranging from New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio, Police commissioner William Bratton and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams to Tony Marshall, Barbados’ United Nations Ambassador who was a Grand Marshall of the colorful parade, have expressed their regrets, worry and outrage over what they all consider a tragedy.
“It’s a tragedy and our hearts go out to the relatives of those who were killed and to the victims who were injured but are expected to survive,” said Mayor de Blasio at a news conference after attending the pre-carnival breakfast and before hitting the parade route on Eastern Parkway where more than a million spectators and revellers were gathered.
“We are so disappointed because we were hoping that violence wouldn’t occur to mar the celebration of West Indian culture,” said Marshall, the Barbados envoy who was among the four grand Marshalls chosen by the West Indian American Day Carnival Association which sponsors the celebration.
One of the many colourful costumes on display at the West Indies Labour Day parade.
“The violence that occurred is unfortunate because it’s not part of the culture of the Caribbean. We expected the carnival to be safe and free of the tragedy which occurred last year when two people were killed. But that was not to be.
“Last year we recorded two deaths and this year we also recorded two fatalities,” said the Mayor. “This is a tragedy. We had expected the festival to be safer than ever before.”
The names of the victims were not released.
The violence occurred despite the presence of more than 3 000 police officers, twice the number of last year, a boost in street lighting, 45 cameras and a determination by the NYPD to stamp out the violence in an area known for youth gang activity.
“I am saddened that this has happened,” said the Mayor.
Police Commissioner Bratton who is leaving his job in a few weeks’ time, expressed confidence the NYPD would find the alleged killer.
Eric Adams, Brooklyn Borough President who is a former police captain said that they were determined not to allow the actions of a few thugs to end the festival.
As many as 250 000 West Indians, slightly less than Barbados’ population and drawn from almost every Caribbean country, participated in J’ouvert in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn on the Labour Day bank holiday. More than 1.2 million spectators and revellers later attended the carnival after the violence.
Before the parade of costume bands, Dr Donna Hunte-Cox, Barbados Consul-General in New York, expressed the hope that people would be safe at the festival. (TB)