Heightened security will return at next month’s J’Ouvert parade

Daybreak: Thousands celebrate the early morning festivity of J’Ouvert at the start of the parade route near Grand Army Plaza on Sept. 4.
Photo by Jon Farina

The city this Labor Day will reprise the strict safety measures it implemented at last year’s early-morning J’Ouvert parade after the tight security prevented fatalities at the event where multiple people were killed in previous years.

The changes — which included delaying the parade’s start time from 4 to 6 am, so it could unfold in sunlight instead of darkness, and staging cops at entry checkpoints around the route — resulted in a largely peaceful parade that Borough President Adams and other local leaders said they’d like to recreate during an Aug. 16 roundtable discussion at Borough Hall ahead of the Sept. 3 celebration, which precedes the annual West Indian Day Parade.

“I don’t think we can point to one area in particular that allowed it to be a success,” the beep said. “It was a combination of things that we did leading up to J’Ouvert and on that day.”

In addition to the new start time and checkpoints, the Police Department last year set up more than 300 floodlights along the route — which runs along Flatbush Avenue and onto Empire Boulevard before curving onto Nostrand Avenue, where it ends at Midwood Street — and sent about 10-percent more cops than the 3,400 dispatched to the parade in 2016.

Police, elected officials, and faith leaders also staged anti-violence events and conducted outreach among known gang members ahead of the celebration — an effort they are continuing this year due to J’Ouvert’s history of drawing individuals who want to stir up trouble with their rivals during the early-hour festivities, Adams said.

“The route of the parade has seen an extremely large amount of gang activity, because in the past, many have used that day as an opportunity to settle old beef,” the beep said.

Cops also confiscated booze, along with weapons and large bags, from revelers at the checkpoints last year — another effective measure they will repeat this year, according to Adams.

The crackdown on J’Ouvert — which celebrates Caribbean cultural resistancedrew criticism from some regulars who said the heightened security stifled its festive atmosphere of years past, but the head of the parade’s organizing body stood by the changes, and said many other participants appreciated them, too.

“We are going keep the checkpoints and the new time,” said Yvette Rennie, who runs J’Ouvert City International. “Now that we start at 6 am, the bands are happier because people can see their costumes in the daylight. And we’re asking people to be patient with us, because everything has changes in life.”

Last year’s safety precautions — which organizers called the strictest since the annual J’Ouvert parade began in 1984 — followed two-straight years of deadly festivities.

In 2015, an aide to Gov. Cuomo was shot and killed amid the celebrations, and last month, a Supreme Court jury convicted three men of crimes including manslaughter for the fatal incident.

And in 2016, separate shooters killed 22-year-old East New Yorker Tiarah Poyau and 17-year-old Flatbush resident Tyreke Borel during the parade. Cops later arrested a 20-year-old who prosecutors charged with second-degree murder for Poyau’s death, but no suspects have been identified in Borel’s killing.

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimon@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @AS1mon.

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