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Is Brooklyn's West Indian Day Parade Growing A Tradition of Violence?

As the parade grows, so does the violence. What should be done?

Labor Day, the annual federal holiday to honor America's workers, also marks an exciting time for New York City's West Indian community.

On the first Monday in September, Brooklyn holds a massive parade and fete -- the city's largest -- down Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights celebrating the culture and pride of the more than 700,000 New Yorkers of Caribbean descent.

The parade, which started in Harlem in 1947 and was moved to Brooklyn in 1964, today attracts between one to three million people each year.

In its 65 years of existence, this lively carnival has become a highly anticipated annual event-- a time to experience the music, cuisine, vibrant culture and contributions of the city's West Indian community.

However, increasingly, in the last ten years it also has become a time when Brooklynites brace themselves for an uptick in the number of incidents of violence. Beginning in 2003, every year, there has been at least one shooting incident to take place along the parade's route.

This year was no exception: The Brooklyn parade began early -- 3:00 a.m. for J'ouvert -- with a large melee and a shooting. The official parade kicked off later that day, at 11:00 a.m. and was met with more reports of shootings and stabbings. It ended later that evening with a shooting death.

According to an account by 71st Pct. Officer Vincent Martinos of Community Affairs, a delayed float created an oversized and frustrated crowd and was at the center of at least two separate shooting and stabbing incidents.

"The last Labor Day float, T-Vice Ompa Haitian, was delayed due to the fact they had failed to hire a driver that was properly licensed for this event," wrote Martinos in an email. "After a lengthy delay, the organizers were able to find someone with the proper NYS license and paperwork needed to drive their float.

"By the time they started, a large gap between floats several blocks [long] had grown. This float moved extremely slow and their music was the loudest of any float on the parade route. The crowd grew to unreasonable size due to the late start and slow moving pace.

"At approximately 5:15 p.m., in front of 650 Eastern Parkway, several shots were fired from inside the overly large crowd around this float. A
female was struck in her left lower back and a male in his left hip. Both victims are expected to make full recoveries.

"A short time later at approximately 6:00 p.m. at the corner of Bedford Ave and Eastern Parkway, a male became the victim of a homicide. The victim was stabbed one time in the neck while inside this large group around this float."

In total, police in the 71st and 77th precincts patroling the parade route reported .

What is meant to serve as a celebratory and lively tradition for Caribbean culture in New York City slowly has devolved into a hotbed of violence.

So what do you think is the best way to address the escalating violence at the West Indian-American Day Parade?

Should the city shorten the parade or place a limit on the numbers of revelers allowed on the parade route? Should the parade be moved to a different location?

Should the parade committee be held accountable for violent incidents and fined? Or perhaps the parade should be ended altogether?

Take our poll, and tell us what you think in the comments.

Jenn September 05, 2012 at 04:48 AM
African Americans are not West Indian and should not be allowed to participate. They are typically the violent instigators....
heather paul September 05, 2012 at 10:42 AM
The parade and festivities used to go on with no time limits and the violence was heavier so the choice was to stop everything by 6 pm and that was very helpful. It is the responsibility of the organizers to make sure this happens especially since people come from all over the U.S. to be there The no alcohol at parades rule has also stemmed the violence. It was worse The police have done an exemplary job as has the city in the cleaning up afterward. The police have had "eyes in the back of their heads" and have been there for all of us.
Jennifer Kramer September 05, 2012 at 11:42 AM
END IT!!! This is no way to celebrate a culture. It is lewd, embarrassing, disruptive, and propagates stereotypes. It is dangerous and a discussing display.
DWAYNE MOOREHEAD September 05, 2012 at 11:55 AM
I am a child born of parents from the Caribbean. St.Thomas to be exact. Now some may argue it is not a West Indian nation because it is U.S. territory but the same could be argued of Puerto Rico. Lest we forget that all " West Indians " are of African descent as we were brought to those various Islands in Caribbean as slaves FROM AFRICA to EITHER WORK SUGAR CANE FIELD FOR RUM TRADE OR TO BE FUTHER SENT THROUG OUT THE WORLD . Now lest not forget they were called the West Indies because early explorers such as Columbus AND Vasco De Gama upon arriving thought it was in North America and upon seeing the native peoples figured he was in the New World. WHEN THEY REALIZED IT WAS NOT SO THEY CALLED IT WEST INDIES TO DISTINGUISH IT FROM NORHT AMERICAN INDIAN NATIVES. Many of the people who reside in the Islands TODAY are descend from African, the native peoples of that land and European. So what are we really? THE AFRICAN AMERICANS ARE NOT THE ONES MESSING UP THE PARADE FESTIVITIES SO I GUESS THE PAST WILDINGS AT THE PUERTO RICAN DAY PARADE WERE " AFRICAN AMERICANS TOO "? ARE YOU EVEN BLACK TO THINK THAT WAY? I GUESS YOU FEEL THAT ALL THE CRIME BEING COMMITTED IN NYC IS BY ONLY AFRICAN AMERICAN PEOPLE. It is being done by those who have no respect for life, the culture and rich history of our Caribbean roots and what the parade really means. NOT JUST AFRICAN AMERICANS. PS I WAS BORN AND RAISED IN NYC SO I GUESS THAT MAKES ME AFRICAN AMERICAN.
sagepress September 05, 2012 at 01:18 PM
listen yall i live in brooklyn its a fun but hard place. at any given moment on any given day gun fire can and will erupt. these guys beef with each other all year and when labor day comes around the parade is a good cover to catch your prey. especially when both victim and prey know theyll be in the same place it let me be clear this parade route goes through three to four neighbor hood flatbush is where the trucks pull out from then east new york, Crown Heights and bedstuy all these neighborhood merge as the trucks reach the end of the route. my point is the parade it self tit the people that live near by the parade. in brooklyn every new year my black ass better be gone by or home by midnight or else all to hear for an hour is gun fire. and please eveey culture deserves respect and this article is false the violence has and have been apart of this parade since it was in Harlem my besty mother tells us that every year when we tell he we are going. and if you. the reason why this is a tradition we celebrate the day that the west Indian was freed from slavery. most of the costume are worn with stocking just some women women choose not to wear them or much. but it is fun.it a huge block party from suday through monday. stop judging ppl yall that so sicking be open minded the new only tells half the truth so the can keep you watching
jill September 05, 2012 at 01:41 PM
"Every culture deserves respect" Respect is a priviledge, not a right, and as such must be earned.
Tai Johnston September 05, 2012 at 02:14 PM
I say take it to the islands. The violence associated with the parade as the years go on is ridiculous. i was afraid to watch it; or even the news for fear of hearing what i have just heard. People need to really learn to control their bad ass kids from birth so that they will grow up to be productive citizens and not create violence. Although NYC has several parades thought-out the year, you will not hear of the violence. But, any empty soda bottle that drops and breaks at this particular carnival/parade--the world is sure to hear about it. And to the poster Jenn who said "African Americans are not West Indian"; please study your history. You are either black or white! Again, people need to control their kids from birth; and that is in all cultures derived from being black or white.
Tai Johnston September 05, 2012 at 02:17 PM
"African Americans are not West Indian"; please study your history. You are either black or white! Again, people need to control their kids from birth; and that is in all cultures derived from being black or white. please i urge you... check out your history.
pat September 05, 2012 at 02:48 PM
If you go to the West Indies, you will understand why they act this way.
Jenn September 05, 2012 at 04:47 PM
Dwayne aka Bob Marley calm down. I am Carib. and its 2 different cultures and that's the point, and 2 different up bringings. Open up your eyes. Not everything is peace, rainbow's and butterflies. There is a clear and definite difference in the 2 cultures.
Rebecca Scott September 05, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Violence only has two conceivable outcomes: death or jail. If you ask me, neither of these is an appealing option. People need to grow up and grow thicker skin. People talk, tease, mock, cheat, lie, etc. on each other all the time. Are you going to kill everybody that crosses you? Jail is filled to the brim with folks who wish they had rethought their actions. This is foolish.
Tai Johnston September 05, 2012 at 07:27 PM
OHHHH. Hmmmm. What you have stated makes perfect sense. Every time i visit the Caribbean; Barbados, Jamaica, Bahamas, etc. ;we were harassed by the many of those individuals with the 'different up-bringing". it would be from braiding hair on the beach, begging for food and money, even the youngsters.... they just pop out of the ocean or from out of the bushes and trees. I went to Paradise island, Bahamas for my daughter's sweet 16 celebration. We were all just relaxing under a tree, and one of the natives leaped from one branch to the next and moments later landed in front of us. I am always feeling sorry and would give food and money when i go to these different countries. But being nice only made the numbers of people grow. I guess I was the 'African American" with the frills. Now i see quite a few ppl from the Caribbean have came here and have married for citizenship. What i don't understand is why they go crazy and act up after they are granted citizenship. Well thanks for helping me connect the dots as to why they act the way they do at the West Indian day parade. Hopefully, next year will be better!!!
FliiGirl September 06, 2012 at 03:50 AM
In a few more years give or take this Labor day parade will no longer exist #facts
DWAYNE MOOREHEAD September 06, 2012 at 06:28 AM
Jen again I implore you to see what I´m saying LISTEN I GREW UP IN BUSHWICK, BROOKLYN DURING THE CRACK ERA... SO PLEASE THERE IN NO MISCONCEPTION AS TO WHETHER THE WORLD IS BUTTER FLYS AND RAINBOWS BUT YOU SOUND LIKE A RACIST WHITE PERSON WHEN YOU SAY "AFRICAN AMERICANS" ARE THE ONES DOING ALL THE CRIME AT THE PARADE ... MAYBE YOU JUST MOVED TO FLATBUSH CAUSE I REMEMBER NOT SO LONG AGO WHEN THE SO CALLED JAMAICAN POSSE RAN DRUGS ALL THRU FLATBUSH AND THE GUN SHOOTINGS WERE OUTRAGEOUS SO I GUESS YOU WOULD SAY ALL JAMAICANS ARE DRUG DEALING GUN TOTING DREDS...PLEASE GET OFF YOUR HIGH HORSE!!! BUT WHAT DO I KNOW I´M JUST A KID FROM BROOKLYN ...
Ekayani Chamberlin September 06, 2012 at 10:43 PM
What makes me feel badly about this discussion is it seems to overlook the young people that are committing the violence in the first place. The lack of legitimate jobs for our youth, a solid education and not merely passing time at school would be so helpful. Young men and woman need dreams they feel they can realize with the means to get there. They are ill equipped to deal with their emotions. life, acceptance, economics. Where is the real support? The school across the street from my old building on Saint Marks Avenue is being phased out as no new students are being accepted. The reason given is that the students are not passing the tests. When I was a child I as given a tutor and support to overcome my learning challenges. Why don't these children get the same? Single parent homes? Other stresses? You know- what is really going on when a 16 year old gets shot in the head by a 17 year old on Christmas Day? (Yes I heard the shots) Why weren't they at home? Why do kids get caught up in gangs? It seems shutting down the parade is turning a blind eye to what is going on right before our eyes. The parade is a perfect cover for those who seek revenge to do so in the swell of the crowd. But from where did these desire for it stem from? Environment is but a looking glass. Every week I read about a beating, a mugging etc happening right here. The police can only do so much. It's we the parents, the adults, the surrounding community that make the difference.
DWAYNE MOOREHEAD September 06, 2012 at 10:52 PM
Ms. Chamberlain, The best statement all day WELL SAID
Reginald Miller September 07, 2012 at 12:55 PM
Conduct a media campaign to coincide with the Parade and encourage folks not to use violence. Build on parade goers' deep feelings of West Indian Pride and love of community and there won't be any problems. Just imagine strategically placed posters with a picture of somebody's grandmother admonishing them that she didn't raise them up to engage in such foolishness, and it's a wrap.
Larry September 07, 2012 at 02:33 PM
As Jennifer said above: "END IT!!! This is no way to celebrate a culture. It is lewd, embarrassing, disruptive, and propagates stereotypes. It is dangerous and a discussing display." except Jennifer -- it's not "discussing"... it's "disgusting".
Ken September 07, 2012 at 08:58 PM
You're 100% right. There really isn't any violence directly attributable to the parade itself. Both incidents happened away from the parade. Look at the St. Patrick's Day parade...it used to be nothing but trouble. Thanks to our police, it's really nice. The same with the West-Indian parade.
Beverl segers September 08, 2012 at 12:40 AM
ALL THE PARADES HAVE VIOLENT INCIDENTS. SO WHY SINGLE OUT THE WEST INDIAN DAY PARADE. REMEMBER THE IRISH, PUERTO RICAN INCIDENTS. THATS JUST WHAT THE JEWS WOULD LIKE. TO MOVE ALL BLACKS FROM EASTERN PARKWAY ON LABOR DAY. I SAY NO. LEAVE THE PARADE ALONE. ARE YOU GOING TO MOVE THE ST, PATRICKSDAY PARADE AND THE PUERTO RICAN AND OTHERS FROM PARK AVE? I THINK NOT, RIGHTLY THE WEST INDIAN DAY PARADE SHOULD BE ON 5TH AVE WTH ALL THE OTHER PARADES. THE JEWS HAVE BEEN TRYING TO GET THE PARADE OFF OF EASTERN PARKWAY FOR YEARS. WE HAVE A RIGHT TO HAVE OUR PARADES LIKE ANY ONE ELSE. THERE IS VIOLENCE AT ALL HUGE GATERINGS LIKE THIS. THEY DON'T TELL US ABOUT THE VIOLENCE AT THE OTHER PARADES WHICH I HAVE SEEN WITH MY OWN EYES. STOP SINGLING OUT THE WEST INDIAN DAY PARADE!!!!
james September 08, 2012 at 06:23 PM
Actually, there isn't violence at all huge gatherings.
Freddie Garcia September 08, 2012 at 06:39 PM
I partially agree with Beverly Segers. The parade SHOULD be moved to 5th Ave. However, not because of any racial or cultural differences but because of the environment that it's in. The article goes as far back as 2003 with the increase in violence but I was born in Crown Heights and remember seeing violence EVERY year and I lived there fort 30yrs. In fact that parade wouldn't be the same WITHOUT the violence but I digress. The parade wouldn't have ANY major violence in the because there would no where for the perpetrators to run and hide. The people or persons that commit the crimes live near the incident which is why it's so hard to catch them because they can quickly run into a bldg where they live or a friend lives. On 5th Ave. where are they going to run to? There's no safe haven, hence they (being the persons that would normally commit a crime given the chance) wouldn't even show up to Manhattan. Is there violence associated with other parades in Manhattan? Sure there is, but it's not multiple shootings and stabbings. Melees yes but not major and consistent deadly violence as on Labor day. Move this parade into the city on I guarantee it'll be the best parade this great city ever holds.
BRADY September 15, 2012 at 04:46 AM
i'm sorry, how many shooting and stabbings at the saint patricks day and the puerto rican day parades??
BRADY September 15, 2012 at 04:54 AM
that Freddie is a great idea except J'ouvert starts the night before and continues until the next day well after the parade ends manhattan would never stand for it at the end of all manhattan parades the last float passes by and here comes the entire sanitation dept. cleaning up, parades over leave,not in bklyn
Barry Keys September 19, 2012 at 03:15 AM
Damn I am not racist but why does anything involving blacks have to involve crime and violence? When will blacks police their own?
pat September 19, 2012 at 03:44 AM
My friend visited me from Washington State, he is from Guam originally. He lives in an area with a good size Black population. After returning to Washington, he asked me in an awkward manner, why are Blacks in New York City so poorly behaved and vulgar. I had no answer for him. He also asked why do Blacks tolerate their own people making them look so bad in the eyes of visitors and locals. This was his own observation and unfortunately an observation many people make when visiting here. I wish it was not that way, because there are many great Blacks, Hispanics and Asians that are my dear friends. Something has to give in this country.
BRADY September 19, 2012 at 04:11 AM
its a lot eaiser to blame the white man ,if blacks actually policed their own something might get done ,but then their local politicans have actually have to work instead of crying about THE COPS DO TO MUCH and when something bad happens THE COPS DON'T DO ENOUGH. rember like the AFRICAN AMERICAN man said,SNITCHES GET STICHES.so no Barry Keys your not a racist, blacks are just lazy "DAT AINT MY JOB " is the mantra
Ken September 20, 2012 at 03:14 PM
Having done some extensive traveling in both the Caribbean and Europe and the Middle East, I have noticed that in just about all countries people just don't use their car horns. If you're walking across the street, or the light changes and you're driving, people don't immediately start blowing their horns. However, as soon as the same people arrive here, it seems to be a necessary evil to lean on the horn. I guess this is where bad manners begins. "I'm in America now and I'm in a rush...so just get out of my way!!"
Ronald December 15, 2012 at 11:52 AM
Okay now everybody is just being ridiculous and ever parade kept in New York City have violent the only reason why people is more focus on the West Indian parade Because it draws the largest crowd in New York City beside the New Year's celebration in Manhattan
Ronald December 15, 2012 at 12:06 PM
The bottom line is if they want the killing to stop and homicide to stop they have to end the parade completely But it would be sad too and only the West Indian day parade Because the West Indian day parade is not the only Parade that brings violence the Puerto Rican day parade and the Dominican the parade also Brings Violence but everybody's more focused on the West Indian day parade because it draws the largest crowd The West Indian day parade draws almost 3 Million people to Brooklyn each year And with that being said the Puerto Rican Day Parade only Draws 500,000 and Dominican only draws 100,000 The parade brings in millions of dollars to New York City each year. The bottom line is they know the parade is being kept every year on the parkway why not beef up security more cameras

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