In step: Cops, locals keep peace at Sunset Park Puerto Rican parade • Brooklyn Paper

In step: Cops, locals keep peace at Sunset Park Puerto Rican parade

Float on: Arianna Ortiz and cousin Orlando Acosta may not be old enough to drive, but that didn’t stop them from entering a float in the parade.
Photo by Georgine Benvenuto

This procession has made serious progress.

Police and Sunset Parkers kept the peace for the first time in decades during a Puerto Rican Day parade along Fifth Avenue on June 14. This was the first time in nearly 30 years that someone secured a parade permit for the previously unofficial street celebration.

In past years, violence erupted between un-permited revellers and police — but Sunday’s parade, which drew more than 6,000 people, was the first without incident in recent memory, an organizer said.

“No one was arrested, no one was fined — it was so smooth,” said parade organizer Dennis Flores. “We get pegged that our community is violent, but we showed that is nonsense.”

Decades of police-community tension seemed to evaporate on that balmy afternoon, according to Flores.

“Police were calm and respectful,” he said. “They took part in the celebration. They were dancing with people.”

Musicians beat barriles — Puerto Rican drums — and dancers displayed traditional steps as the procession made its way up Fifth Avenue — culminating in a festival at Sunset Park.

“It was like being in the living room with grandma, but we were on the avenue,” said Peter Ortiz, a life-long resident who said the sight was a far cry from previous parades.

“Two or three years ago, police came out with bean bag guns and they were shooting at the crowd,” he said.

Last year, police battered a 17-year-old kid and then accused him of attacking police officers before eventually dropping charges on the grounds that the officer who claimed to witness the attack wasn’t actually around at the time.

Flores, who heads the police watchdog group El Grito De Sunset Park, obtained the parade permit specifically to ensure peace at this year’s celebration, he said.

The Sunset Parker Facebook page also claims there were no incidents at the 2015 fete, attributing the information to 72nd Precinct commanding officer Capt. Tommy Ng. But the precinct did not respond to a request for comment.

Expect a bigger, better, and equally safe parade next year, Flores said.

“At 12:01 am that night, I filed online for a permit for the parade next year,” he said. “I’ve got so many people that want to be part of a committee. The police department is already reaching out now and they want to have meetings.”

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–8303. Follow him on Twitter @JustTheMax.

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