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Town brawl! J’ouvert organizer criticizes pol at parade public safety meeting

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She put him in line.

The president of J’ouvert International admonished a politician in favor of suspending the early morning Labor Day parade at a town hall on June 1, criticizing him for not including her in discussions on public safety at this year’s event.

“We put programs in place to try to work on safety and defusing violence and we have been talking to mas bands — but I haven’t heard from you,” Yvette Rennie said to state Assemblyman Walter Mosley (D—Fort Greene). “Maybe you’re meeting with other people, but the mas and steel pan groups are not part of that conversation. Call us to table, don’t work around us.”

Mosley, along with Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo (D–Clinton Hill) and state Sen. Jesse Hamilton (D–Crown Heights), organized the public meeting in Prospect Heights to discuss safety measures for J’ouvert, which precedes the annual West Indian Day Parade. Last year, two people were fatally shot despite a beefed up police presence and security that included an official permit and 250 floodlights — which, said the mother of a woman killed at the parade, were still not enough.

“It’s not just doubling or tripling. Sometimes it’s how the police do their job, because where my daughter was killed there were no police around,” Vertina Brown said. “We need better lighting, because there was no lighting where my daughter was killed.”

The organization behind J’ouvert is working to implement even more safety measures this year that include entry checkpoints similar to those around Times Square on New Year’s Eve, bag checks, and more floodlights. But the violence that occurs during the festivity is part of a borough-wide crime problem, Rennie said, not restricted to the parade.

“J’ouvert has been a festive event for the past 35 years, but Brooklyn itself has become a challenge for crime and somehow we seem to fall into that situation,” she said. “I have been concerned with J’ouvert being stigmatized and I look at it as a total disrespect for my culture.”

Mosley and other politicians, including district leader Geoffrey Davis, proposed youth engagement as a way to curb violence, suggesting cultural events be held a week ahead of the parade to educate the community.

“I suggest we have a concert and let the artists who know about J’ouvert educate the community through music,” Davis said. “Let artists lead the way.”

Cumbo suggested such initiatives begin as early as July in order to make them as effective as possible.

“I think that we should look at the fourth of July weekend through Labor Day to create a nonviolent experience throughout the entire summer,” she said.

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimon@cnglocal.com.
Updated 3:05 am, July 10, 2018
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