The city’s West Indian Day Parade thundered down a thoroughfare Monday with its usual colorful, musical energy, but gun violence shocked the festivities to a stop in spots, the Associated Press reports.
Two people were struck by bullets at about 3 p.m. on the Brooklyn parade route, Eastern Parkway in the Crown Heights neighborhood, police said, but their injuries weren’t believed to be life-threatening. Earlier, a spectator pulled out a gun, fired a shot into the air and fled in a livery cab, but he was intercepted by police, who arrested him.
The annual Labor Day parade celebrates the culture of the Caribbean islands and is one of the city’s largest outdoors events. Modeled on traditional Carnival festivities, it features dancers wearing enormous feathered costumes, music and plenty of food.
“This parade is fabulous!” said Arnold Caballero, who was manning a huge barbecue on a sidewalk. “There are people of all countries, and you meet friends you haven’t seen for years.”
The 52-year-old Trinidad native estimated that by day’s end he would sell about 500 pounds of jerk and curry chicken, beef and pork from the stand he’s run for a decade with two friends.
Caballero’s friend Agnes Cherryl Phillips, a 55-year-old native of Grenada, added: “This is the most excellent parade you can ever have, with music and loved ones who come from all over America, from Miami to Canada.”
New York’s mayor, governor, police commissioner and other elected officials showed up to start the day.
High-spirited spectators behind police barricades joined in with impromptu dancing as music pounded from massive loudspeakers aboard floats rumbling through the neighborhood, which also is home to the world headquarters of the Lubavitch Orthodox Jewish community.
Some sat on their porches watching people waving the bright flags of their native islands and enjoying Caribbean delicacies sold by vendors whose barbecues released delicious-smelling smoke into the late summer air.
Antonneal Waldron, 3, was resting on a bench with her parents and 5-month-old brother after strolling the parade route. She summed up the experience in a few words: “Walk, walk, walk! Color, color, color!”
Her mother, Jennifer Woldron, completed the picture, saying, “It’s an American event that represents people of many nations: food, flags, islands, music.”
But it was not an entirely festive day.
Violence has marred the parade for years, with fatal shootings along the route in 2003 and 2005. Police helicopters hovered overhead Monday, and officers on scooters and on foot patrolled the surrounding blocks.
The upcoming 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks plus a spate of holiday weekend violence have put the city “on heightened alert,” police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said before the parade stepped off.
“We’re doing a lot of things both seen and unseen,” the commissioner said.
A City Council member was arrested at the parade after getting into a confrontation with police. A spokesman for Jumaane Williams said the Brooklyn elected official was taken into custody as he walked along a blocked-off sidewalk around 1:30 p.m. Monday.
Spokesman Stefan Ringel said Williams had been given permission to walk along the street by a police official but was then stopped by other officers. A confrontation ensued, leading to the arrest.
Williams was held for about 30 minutes before being released, Ringel said. No charges were filed, he said. The police department said it didn’t have any information on the arrest.
Bloodshed over the weekend included a Sunday shooting in the Bronx in which eight people, including children, were wounded. Four other people were shot, one fatally, in the East Flatbush section of Brooklyn early Monday.
Kelly said some of the shootings were associated with the West Indian Day festivities.
“Frankly,” he said, “this is something that does happen at this parade.”
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the problem is “too many guns on the streets of this city.”
He said New York has some of the toughest gun laws in the country, “but because it’s so easy to buy guns in other states and just drive them in and sell them in the back of your car … we’ve got to do something about it. This just can’t go on.”
The mayor said New York needs the federal government “to help, in terms of getting guns off the streets” — especially to close what he called “the gun show loophole,” which allows potential criminals to easily obtain firearms without showing identification.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo stopped by a pre-parade breakfast before heading to upstate communities where residents are still cleaning up from Tropical Storm Irene.
“Thank you for sharing your culture, your language, your music, your food, your diversity,” he told organizers.
The governor said he would take buckets of jerk chicken to Irene victims.
As the festivities and the unrest receded on Eastern Parkway, 14-year-old Alexcia Gordon stood smiling by her stand of hand-crocheted earrings — almost a foot long, in all colors, selling for $10 a pair.
“I already sold 27 pairs yesterday, so I had to go home and make some more last night,” said the beaming teenager, decked out in the finery she creates.
For the original reports go to http://online.wsj.com/article/APe3197caf420a4415a3e40dcc5679affd.html