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J'Ouvert Will Go On Despite Violence and Calls for Cancellation: Mayor

By  Rachel Holliday Smith and Trevor Kapp | September 6, 2016 3:35pm 

 Two people were shot on the J'Ouvert parade route on Empire Boulevard in Crown Heights this year.
Two people were shot on the J'Ouvert parade route on Empire Boulevard in Crown Heights this year.
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DNAinfo/Rachel Holliday Smith

CROWN HEIGHTS — J’Ouvert will go on amid calls from anti-violence advocates and at least one Brooklyn elected official to cancel the annual predawn Caribbean festival, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday.

Crown Heights Assemblyman Walter Mosley said he can “no longer support” the event following the violence that killed 17-year-old Tyreke Borel and 22-year-old Tiarah Poyau.

“After long consideration, it is with a heavy heart that I call on a suspension of the J'Ouvert celebration. I can no longer support this event and hope for the best when it comes to the well-being of our fellow New Yorkers,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.

Mosley said that while the J’Ouvert event is a “celebration of cultural heritage,” it has “become synonymous with gun violence.”

“Until we as a community can collectively come together to address the root cause of these violent acts, I cannot lend my support to it going forward,” he said.

Two shootings on the J’Ouvert parade route before dawn on Monday killed Borel and Poyau and injured several others, including a 72-year-old woman who was hospitalized with a gunshot wound to the arm, police said.

De Blasio said the annual pre-West Indian Day Parade event will continue despite the violence that has erupted during and near the event in past years.

“It's very important to the community,” he said at a press conference at One Police Plaza on Tuesday afternoon, adding that “about a quarter of a million people” attended the event.

His comments differ from those made on Monday hours after J’Ouvert when de Blasio said “all options are on the table” when determining the future of J'Ouvert.

A suspect has been arrested in the killing of Poyau, an accounting student apparently shot in the face by a drunk man at the J’Ouvert parade, sources told DNAinfo New York.

The second victim, 17-year-old Borel, was hit by a stray bullet in a gang-related shootout at Flatbush Avenue and Empire Boulevard, sources said, about a block from where Poyau was shot.

A candlelight vigil is planned for both victims on Empire Boulevard Tuesday night by anti-violence advocate Tony Herbert, who said his group Advocates Without Borders will call for J’Ouvert to be shut down following Monday’s violence.

But some leaders in Brooklyn are not ready to throw in the towel on J'Ouvert yet. Speaking before the West Indian Day Parade on Monday, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said he was confident the NYPD would find a prosecute those responsible for the violence at the event.

"We need to be clear — we do not surrender to violence," he said. "Violence surrenders to us."

On Tuesday, Councilmember Jumaane Williams — who represents Flatbush — said the community first needs to "take some time to mourn the people who we lost," then have a conversation to "take every suggestion and put it on the table" surrounding the event. But he questioned those who think canceling the event will solve the problem of gun violence on Labor Day.

"Should we have martial law?" he asked. "Not having J’Ouvert doesn't mean we won’t have thousands of people on the streets."

State Sen. Jesse Hamilton had a different take. In an op-ed letter share with DNAinfo to be published this week, he said he does not think J'Ouvert should be canceled or suspended, but suggested an "age requirement" be put into place for those participating in the event and security checkpoints.

"We need a comprehensive, holistic approach," he said.

An inquiry to Assemblywoman Diana Richardson on the issue was not immediately returned Tuesday. City Councilman Matheiu Eugene declined to comment on the cancelation question, saying only that the violence is "tragic and heartbreaking."

"This demonstrates the urgency and seriousness of the issue that the city should deal with in respect to J’Ouvert," he said in a statement. "My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the victims."