New York police said five people, including a 7-year-old, were shot and injured during the unofficial Caribbean J'Ouvert celebration in Brooklyn, New York, on Monday.
The Brooklyn-based J'Ouvert City International Incorporation, organizer of the annual event, had cancelled all street celebrations this year and has been planning a virtual one instead as a result of the coronavirus pandemic which has killed thousands of Americans and infected several millions.
The West Indian American Day Carnival Association (WIADCA), which organizes the annual Caribbean carnival parade on Brooklyn's Eastern Parkway had also cancelled the celebration and held virtual events.
However, many took to the streets of Brooklyn yesterday, a public holiday in the U.S., despite official warnings to stay away and the ubiquitous presence of police.
Police said a barrage of gun shots were fired during the early hours and that a 7-year-old boy was shot in his left leg and rushed to the nearby Kings County Hospital in Central Brooklyn, with non-life-threatening injuries.
The child's mother, Patricia Brathwaite, 47, and three men were also shot in their feet and have since been hospitalized. “I got out of the cab, was coming home, and a group of people were walking down the block, and I was waiting for them to pass, and somebody started to shoot,” she said. “I just got shot, and I turned around; my son was on the ground. I didn't see anyone pull a gun or shooting the gun,” Braithwaite added.
Police believe the shooting was gang-related. Chief of detectives of the New York Police Department (NYPD) Terence A Monahan, said that two men were arrested in connection with the shootings and that two guns were seized.
He said the investigation was still ongoing.
New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, and the God Squad, a group of clergymembers headed by United States Virgin Islands native, Pastor Gilford Monrose, said they have been urging the community to remain peaceful during the Labour Day holiday weekend.
Williams said he was deeply troubled by the shootings.
“It's a sign of weakness to shoot in a crowd. I wish those few hundred people who were here just stayed home like the rest of their neighbors did, and we ask folks to celebrate in small groups with family and friends. Had they done that, we may be having a different story,” he added.
Earlier, Caribbean American Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, the daughter of Jamaican immigrants, tweeted: “This #LaborDay, it saddens me to celebrate J'Ouvert and the West Indian Day Carnival virtually, but we must do all we can to stay safe.
“Let's social distance, wear masks and celebrate our culture from home,” said the representative for the predominantly Caribbean 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn.
Trinidadian Yvette Rennie, president of J'Ouvert City International, said she was “very proud of our cultural lovers, who respected the rules and regulations and did not come out on the streets J'Ouvert morning”.
“We are proud of all of you, and so are our ancestors. However, those who decided to come out without taking into consideration of the nature of our setting, and hiding under the umbrella of culture, shame on you,” she added.
Over the years, Caribbean J'Ouvert has been marred by gun violence near the parade route.
In 2015, for example, a legal aide to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was fatally shot in the crossfire between rival gangs during the celebration.
The incident prompted the NYPD to move the J'Ouvert start time and to increase police presence and install metal detectors along the parade route.