Submitted by CARIBBEAN GUYANA INSTITUTE FOR DEMOCRACY (CGID)
J’Ouvert 2015 was tarnished by unaccepted gun and other forms of violence, which left at least […][…]two persons dead and many others critically injured. J’Ouvert is a customary
celebration that takes place the night before Carnival or the annual West Indian Labor Day Parade. It is a celebration of the West Indian culture in which young people, teenagers, and entire families participate. Within recent years, misguided elements have used this celebration to commit senseless acts of violence.
During J’Ouvert last Sunday night in Brooklyn, Carey Gabay, a Jamaican-American who is a Deputy General Counsel in the office of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, was caught in an exchange of gun fire and was shot in the head while out with his brother observing J’Ouvert festivities near Bedford Avenue and Sullivan Place. He remains on life support with no brain activity. He and his family are in our prayers. Police said about 27 rounds were fired in this firefight possibly by three gunmen. An unrelated .45-caliber MAC-10 gun was found nearby the scene but was not involved in the shooting.
Carey Gabay was not alone. Josiah Denentro, age 24, of the Bronx, was fatally stabbed and another man was shot during a large fight in the vicinity of Empire Boulevard and Bedford Avenue. A 20 year old man was also shot in the hand near Empire Boulevard and Bedford Avenue. A 39-year-old man was shot on Martense Street and Nostrand Avenue, and a 33-year-old man was stabbed in the abdomen in the vicinity of Rochester Avenue and Eastern Parkway. Overall, Police reportedly arrested 13 people for gun possession, 4 for assault, 1 for armed robbery and more than 12 for misdemeanors in and around the J’Ouvert celebrations.
These are unacceptable acts of senseless violence and criminality that undermine public safety and tarnish the carnival and West Indian culture. J’Ouvert celebrants, as well as bystanders, should not have to worry about their safety or being hit by a stray bullet at these festivities. Our community can no longer tolerate such callous and gratuitous taking of human life and other acts of violence. Therefore immediate and drastic measures must be taken to genuinely address this matter.
CGID believes that discontinuing J’Ouvert or the Labor Day Parade is not an option. Consequently, in order to arrest the violence at these celebrations, we propose that:
(I) J’Ouvert must he held within a safety route/zone. In order to participate in the celebration, participants must subject themselves to a thorough security check at multiple designated entry and exit points. The New Year’s Eve celebration in Time Square is a good model to study in this regard.
(II) The Police should perform random security checks on participants and bystanders along the J’Ouvert route.
(III) J’Ouvert rganizers must collaborate with West Indian-American organization throughout the community to launch a public awareness comparing to educate the community and our young people, who participate in the celebration, about the significance of the J’Ouvert and the necessity for a complete cessation of weapons possession and violence, and why such criminal acts undermine the preservation of our culture.
Although random searches have constitutional implications, we believe persons who come along the parade route automatically and lawfully consent to the conditions of participation in the event. There measures will have a significant impact on the quality of the J’Ouvert celebrations as well as on the safety of the public.