Labor Day ‘racist attack’ condemned

Haitian District Community Leader, Josue Pierre.
Jonathan Ystad

Josue Pierre, a Haitian-born Democrat running in the 40th Council District in Brooklyn, on Saturday joined 35 of his fellow City Council candidates in describing as racist and calling on Staten Island Councilmember Joe Borelli to apologize for calling for the end to Brooklyn’s popular West Indian Day Carnival Parade.

In a story posted in Caribbean Life on July 8, Republican Borelli also wanted all activities surrounding the carnival to end as well, arguing that the parade requires a “beefed up and visible police presence” that the New York Police Department (NYPD) can no longer afford.

The candidates sent Borelli a letter demanding an immediate apology for his “overtly racist attack” on the parade, described as one of the most popular in New York City.

“We are deeply disgusted by your racist call to end our West Indian Day Parade,” the letter reads. “Every single parade, no matter which part of our wonderful diversity as Americans it celebrates, requires additional police resources and disrupts local communities.

“Yet, you single out only one – a parade celebrating the rich traditions and culture of New York’s extensive West Indian community – which is mainly Black – to target for elimination, fabricating a preposterous and bigoted argument that brings shame to the office you hold and our City,” it adds.

“You need to apologize and consider whether you are fit to remain in office if you cannot understand and address your own bias for the greater good of our City and its residents,” the letter to Borelli continues.

Revellers at the West Indian Day Carnival Parade in Brooklyn.

The 35 signatories joining Pierre, included Crystal Hudson (CD-35), Whitney Hu (CD-38), Brandon West (CD-39), Shahana Hanif (CD-39), Patrick Johnson (CD-39), Rita Joseph (CD-40), Brian Cunningham (CD-40), Edwin Raymond (CD-40), Blake Morris (CD-40), Wilfredo Florentino (CD-42), Gardy Brazela (CD-46), Shirley Paul (CD-46) and Mercedes Narcissis (CD-46).

“As a Black Caribbean Haitian-American, I know dog whistle politics when I hear it,” Pierre told Caribbean Life. “Mr. Borelli is a defender of a corrupt status quo in which Black and Brown people are killed by police without consequence; and having lost the battle to protect violent cops in the Council, is now seeking to punish communities that demanded substantive change and to be protected and served, without being brutalized, in exchange for the taxes they pay.”

“That’s shameful, and he needs to apologize,” Pierre demanded.

In a tweet accompanying a letter addressed to NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, Borelli wrote: “Each year, there’s several shootings and homicides surrounding the West Indian Day Parade & J’ouvert.

“It’s a danger for cops, revelers and the public,” he added.

“Without the enhanced police presence, made possible only by assigning officers on overtime, the city of New York can make no reasonable guarantee that revelers will be safe,” the South Shore councilman wrote in the letter. “This danger also extends to police officers assigned to these commands during their regular shifts.”

Borelli also said in his letter that the celebration’s violence is not confined to the vicinity of the parade but can be felt throughout the neighborhoods and precincts surrounding the annual celebration.

“Still, these stats do not tell the full story, as they reflect people shot only in the immediate vicinity of the parade route,” he wrote. “A fuller picture can be painted by examining the spike in shootings throughout the affected precincts during this weekend each year.”

But the Council candidates shot back in their letter to Borelli, saying: “There is no debate; Black Caribbean communities deserve respect and support from law enforcement, not just as taxpayers, but as human beings.

“You cite gun violence as a rationale for your not-so-veiled bigotry, but this kind of grandstanding does nothing to address the root causes of gun violence; and it is completely disingenuous to pose this as a solution,” they write.

“Councilmember, you do not speak for the communities that host this event nor should you pretend to know what is best for us,” they add. “Have you ever had the pleasure of attending our parade to vibe to our music and enjoy our extraordinary cuisine? Do you understand its cultural significance for thousands of Caribbean New Yorkers? Why did you single out only one parade, one that is of particular significant for Caribbean New Yorkers while ignoring all others? Can you look within yourself to see the racism and implicit bias that your words represent?

“There is a very real possibility that this year’s parade will need to be postponed or cancelled because of the pandemic. However, when parades are able to resume, there should be no barrier for our West Indian Day Parade to continue, celebrating the rich culture and diversity we are contributing to New York’s as a Cultural Capital,” the letter continues.”

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