CROWN HEIGHTS — Amid a heavy police presence, J’Ouvert revelers paraded down Empire Boulevard without a hitch this year following major security changes to the annual Caribbean celebration.
NYPD checkpoints, hundreds of police officers, helicopters flyovers and a time change didn’t stop the kick-off to carnival, which traditionally takes place before dawn.
This year, the city moved the official J'Ouvert parade to 6 a.m. as part of security changes made following several fatal shootings on or near the route in the past three years.
Empire Boulevard with less than an hour until J'Ouvert parade. nearly deserted. very different feel from last year. pic.twitter.com/Tl3nPsFM6Y— Rachel H. Smith (@rachelholliday) September 4, 2017
Attendees and participants in the J’Ouvert parade went through pat-downs and metal detectors to get into the event this year, and no bags, alcohol or weapons were allowed.
The new restrictions seemed to keep the route — usually packed with thousands of people before the sun comes up — clear of attendees for much of the early morning; police far outnumbered revelers until daybreak.
But the parade picked up soon after 6 a.m., with drummers, steel pan bands, horns and lots of costumes, paint and colorful baby powder.
Joann McIntyre of East Flatbush was part of the 51st Street J’Ouvert Band float in the parade, which had to go through two checkpoints to get to the start of the procession. But McIntyre, who is from Grenada, understood the need for security, even if it was a nuisance.
“I don’t like the fact that it’s come to this, but if people are going to be safe, let it happen,” she said.
Andy Saunders, dressed in an elaborate white costume as part the J’Ouvert group Phagwah Kritical Mas, said he thought the scanning at the checkpoints was “ridiculous,” but said the “spirit of the people is not defeated.”
“Next year, if these same rules still exist, more people will come out because they’ll see that we are still here,” he said.