No Courage, No Peace in Brooklyn

Editorial Board, New York Times, September 7, 2016

Mayor Bill de Blasio needs to wake up and shut down the carnage of J’ouvert, the overnight ritual of music, dancing, shootings and stabbings that precedes each year’s West Indian American Day Parade.

Elected officials in Brooklyn need to demand it, even if it means breaking with the mayor and facing angry constituents. Somebody needs to show courage in defense of innocent lives and challenge a well-loved but chronically violent event in the Caribbean heart of the city.

Mr. de Blasio does not seem up to the fight. He has ruled out canceling J’ouvert. Even though four people were shot, two fatally, during Monday’s festivities. Even though last week he promised the safest J’ouvert ever, and even though the Police Department flooded the neighborhood with 3,400 officers, double last year’s number, dozens of security cameras and 250 light towers to make the streets blaze with noonday brightness at 4 a.m. Even though the police tried to keep the peace in advance with a gun buyback, a gang takedown and sternly worded fliers that said: “Do not shoot anyone. Do not stab anyone.”

It didn’t work. Not for the bystanders who lost their lives: Tyreke Borel, 17, who was shot in the chest, and Tiarah Poyau, 22, who was shot in the face. Two other shooting victims, a 72-year-old woman and a 20-year-old man, are expected to survive. There were also reports that two people were stabbed.

Each year, officials promise that J’ouvert, whose name is a French-derived term pronounced joo-VAY, will be safe. Each year proves them wrong, and then a cloud darkens that day’s enormously important and popular West Indian parade. Last year’s victims were Carey Gabay, a Cuomo administration lawyer, who was fatally shot, and Denentro Josiah, who was stabbed to death.

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J’ouvert needs to be shut down or altered so it can be policed effectively. Suggestions include starting it at daybreak, not the middle of the night, and screening the crowds, forbidding backpacks and deterring guns, the way Times Square is secured on New Year’s Eve.

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