As the annual Caribbean J’ouvert and West Indian American Day Carnival Day Parade celebrations in Brooklyn took place on Labor Day Monday, officers from the New York Police Department (NYPD) were omnipresent, keeping watchful eyes on masqueraders, revelers and onlookers.
At the same time, a few officers could not even resist the temptation to grind with flirtatious revelers during the carnival parade.
Officers, however, were ubiquitous, ensuring that peace was maintained in treacherous, thunderstorm conditions.
In previous years, the festivities were marred by violence, prompting the NYPD to continue increased security this year.
“J’Ouvert and the West Indian Day Parade are special celebrations of Caribbean culture that we look forward to every year in New York City,” said Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill in a press briefing. “Safety is a shared responsibility, and the continued collaboration between the NYPD and the community will provide a safe and fun atmosphere for all who plan on participating in this year’s celebrations.”
O’Neill said security for the 2019 J’Ouvert celebration and West Indian Day Carnival Parade in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn followed closely to last year’s successful plan, “ensuring the safest possible environment for attendees and participants to enjoy the events.”
He said the formation area and parade route was closed to the general public on Sunday evening, Sept. 1.
Rather than starting at 4:00 am on Labor Day Monday, the police commissioner said the J’Ouvert celebration began at 6:00 a.m. and continued through 11:00 am.
As with last year’s celebration, the decision to step off two hours later, at 6:00 a.m., was a “joint, strategic judgment” made by the parade’s organizers and permit holders — the Brooklyn-based J’Ouvert City International headed by Trinidadian Yvette Renee – and the NYPD “in an effort to reduce the potential for violence,” according to the Office of the Mayor of New York.
Police Commissioner O’Neill said the J’Ouvert route proceeded south on Flatbush Avenue, east on Empire Boulevard, and turned south on Nostrand Avenue to the finish area at Rutland Road in Brooklyn.
The J’Ouvert formation area was located on Flatbush Avenue from Grand Army Plaza to Empire Boulevard, O’Neill said.
He said the West Indian Day Carnival Parade officially kicked off at noon, after the Pre-Carnival Breakfast at the Lincoln Terrace Park on Buffalo Avenue in Crown Heights, and proceeded westbound on Eastern Parkway from Ralph Avenue to Grand Army Plaza.
O’Neill said NYPD staffing was similar to last year, with several thousand uniformed personnel working.
In addition to the officers on the 3 ½ mile-route, he said response teams from the Emergency Service Unit, Strategic Response Group, Critical Response Command and teams of officers on bicycles were staged in and around the route.
Uniformed officers provided security at 13 secure entry points, where participants and spectators were screened for weapons and alcoholic beverages, as well as along the parade route, said O’Neill.
Additionally, he said backpacks and other large bags were prohibited.
O’Neill said more than 300 light towers illuminated each entry point along the parade route to increase safety and facilitate the ease of entry.
The NYPD also temporarily installed a significant number of cameras across the route, he said, adding that the perimeter of the entire route was secured by NYPD blocker cars, barriers and NYC Department of Sanitation sand trucks.
O’Neill said a unified team comprising the NYPD, clergy, community members, and elected officials worked together to ensure public safety at this year’s celebration.
Despite the added security two years ago, the NYPD said there was at least one non-fatal shooting along the parade route on Eastern Parkway between Brooklyn Avenue and New York Avenue.
In 2016, the NYPD reported that two people were killed in the Caribbean J’Ouvert celebration.
In the previous year, a legal aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Jamaican-born Carey Gabay, was shot and killed as gun shots rang out between rival gangs along the J’Ouvert route.
This year, in a fatal shooting, clearly unrelated to J’Ouvert and the carnival parade, cops shot and killed a masked gang member, who they said engaged them in a running gun battle in the wee hours before J’Ouvert even got underway.
Police identified the gunman as Brandon Clayton, 29, a Bloods member wanted for violating parole in a gun possession case.
The name J’Ouvert originates from the French jour ouvert, meaning day break or morning, and signals the start of carnival.
Steel band music is the dominating sound of J’Ouvert, as revelers take to the streets wining and chipping their way in the early hours before the massive West Indian Day Carnival Parade gets underway.
The Brooklyn-based West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA), organizer of the carnival parade and the four-day pre-carnival festivities, said over 3 million people from around the world were expected to converge Labor Day Monday on Eastern Parkway, one of Brooklyn’s larger thoroughfares, for what is considered to be the largest carnival parade in North America.
But, in light of the weather conditions, most spectators stayed away.
The heavy thundershowers, however, did not dampen the spirits of thousands of masqueraders and revelers, as they displayed Caribbean talent and artistry on the parkway.