Photo: Left is Brie Etienne, whose family is from Haiti, and with her, Chauncey Adams, whose family is from Trinidad. They are friends and attended the 2018 J’Ouvert festivities together. Ron Howell took the picture.
By Hannah Grossman, Dev Nelson and Marcus Ayala
At a press conference Thursday, Mayor de Blasio said “bad apples” won’t ruin this year’s J’Ouvert Celebration, as he and other city officials announced how they would keep this year’s event free of violence.
J’Ouvert, a Caribbean celebration, which in the past has been marked by murders and shootings, will take place on September 3. City officials on Thursday said that this year will feature the same stringent security as last year. The J’Ouvert march, which is followed by a larger parade on Monday afternoon, will begin at Grand Army Plaza and will end two miles south down Nostrand Avenue.
In 2015 Cuomo aide Corey Gabay was killed when he found himself amidst in the middle of a gun fight between rival gang members, the Crips and Folk Nation. Despite heightened police presence and security measures the J’Ouvert celebration in 2016 also featured violence. Four people were shot and two were killed. Last year was a breath of fresh air, police said, as there was relatively little violence in comparison to other years at the J’Ouvert festivities.
This was largely a result of increases in police, an alcohol ban, checkpoints with metal detectors, and hundreds of light towers. This year police will continue the 2017 model with minor expansions.
As a result of last year’s stringencies, one of the biggest complaints were that the spirit of J’Ouvert was missing. In fact J’Ouvert means “day break” or “morning,” and is supposed to be celebrated before sunrise. For security purposes, the city moved the time of the parade to 6 a.m.
In addition, some locals complained that they are unhappy with the increased police presence. Tianoa Toures, a local resident who works for a Caribbean installation outside of the J’Ouvert parade said that the police presence doesn’t make her feel more comfortable. “It’s kinda sad that it has to get to that point,” she said.
In prior years residents and officials have considered ending the celebrations because of the violence. Jumaane Williams, a Brooklyn councilmember and gun violence activist, said, “There were calls to shut down the parade, and people would think that we don’t care about the violence. We absolutely do. We want people to celebrate culture. While everybody was focused on this day, there was violence in the other 365 days a year.”