The Trinidadian-born president of the Brooklyn-based West Indian American Day Carnival Association, Inc. (WIADCA) has strongly condemned the violence that took place over the Labor Day weekend, marring the carnival parade on Brooklyn’s Eastern Parkway.
“The perpetrators of these acts of violence should be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Yolanda Lezama-Clark said.
“Although these incidents did not take place at or during the parade, we also condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the wanton shooting of police officers Avichaim Dicken and Omar Medina on Park Place (Brooklyn) Monday night, as well as the unconscionable and senseless killing of Ms. Denise Gay. We wish the officers a speedy and full recovery, and express our heartfelt sympathy to family and friends of Ms. Gay,” she added.
“Our prayers are also with the families and other victims of senseless crime that has occurred throughout the City of New York.
The shootings brought to more than three dozen the number of people shot over the last weekend.
Police said two men were shot at Eastern Parkway near Rochester Avenue in Brooklyn on the sidelines of the massive parade about 2:30 p.m.
One man was shot in the abdomen and the other in the lower back after they got into a scuffle with the shooter, police said. The gunman fled into the panicked crowd.
In another incident, a second gunman fired shots about a dozen blocks from the parade route around noon, police said. The shooter was arrested and nobody was hit.
During J’ouvert, the traditional pre-dawn celebration leading up to the parade, four men were shot at an East Flatbush, Brooklyn, barbecue that turned violent about 12:45 a.m.
Police said Tyrief Gary, 18, was blasted in the chest at the cook-out on E. 54th St. Three other men – ages 30, 29, and 26 – were wounded in the barrage, police said. The four were taken to Kings County Hospital, where Gary later died. The others were in stable condition.
The latest string of shootings came after Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Sunday bemoaned the 24 shootings citywide over 24 hours beginning 6:00 a.m. Saturday.
Calling the chilling violence “just unconscionable,” Bloomberg demanded that the federal government step up their efforts to get illegal weapons off the streets.
“We just cannot continue to have these guns in the hands of kids who don’t understand the value of human life,” he said.
Lezama-Clark said the arrests of City councilmember Grenadian American Jumaane Williams and the Director of Community Affairs for the Public Advocate Kirsten Foy during the parade were “extremely unfortunate.”
She said she was pleased that Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has announced an investigation into the matter.
“We, therefore, hope that this review will result in policies and protocols, which eliminate such conflict that undermine community and police relations,” the carnival head said.
“WIADCA’s top priority has always been convening a safe family event on Labor Day. Over the years, this has been accomplished by organizers and the police collaborating closely on this celebration,” added.
“The NYPD New York Police Department is responsible for public safety at the parade, and to their credit they have for decades met this challenge with minimal incidents,” Lezama-Clark continued.
“It is because of a relatively safe environment that for the last 44 years millions of families and revellers make the pilgrimage to the Eastern Parkway to celebrate Caribbean heritage. It should be noted that our parade is not only the largest in North America, but it’s also one of the safest,” she said.
Lezama-Clark reiterated that 99 percent of the violence, over the Labor Day weekend, throughout New York City had nothing to do with Monday’s parade.
“This falsity insults millions of people that make up the West Indian community,” she said, noting that while the parade attracted over two million participants and spectators, there were only one or two incidents on the parade route.
“And for us at WIADCA, these were one incident too many, as violence or conflict of any kind is unacceptable in the West Indian American Day parade,” she added.
Therefore, Lezama-Clark said her organization will continue to do everything possible to support NYPD’s efforts to make the West Indian American Day Carnival celebration a “peaceful, safe and incident-free celebration, for we cannot over-emphasize that our utmost priority has always been the safety of the public, parade participants and viewers.”
She said the programs subscribed by the West Indian American Day Carnival keep thousands of young people off the streets and out of harm’s way year after year.
“The programs serve as a proven anti-violence tool that enhances the educational experience of participants and make them more productive citizens of society, while, at the same time, helping to create and preserve the safety of our communities,” she said.
Additionally, the Lezama-Clark said WIADCA grants scholarships each year to many of these deserving young people to make college more affordable.
“These are some of the unseen and unwritten success stories of the Carnival Association. It proves that investing in young people works,” she said.
“It is, therefore, incumbent on the leadership of this City to provide the requisite resources to enable these kinds of successful investments in our youth to be replicated throughout our community and the rest of society. This is not the time to divest ourselves of investments in our inner city youth. This is the time for bigger investments in our youth,” she emphasized.
Lezama-Clark appealed to City officials to partner with the association and all other stake holders of the community to address the crisis facing young people, “so that together we can devise implementable solutions in the best interest of our community and City.
“Our hand of partnership and collaboration remains outstretched. We await a genuine response from our officials,” she said.