NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Colorful floats, elaborate costumes, politicians and merrymakers filled Brooklyn’s streets Monday for the annual West Indian Day Parade, a massive Caribbean celebration that was marred by a fatal shooting nearby before the official festivities got underway.
The annual parade — which draws about 1 million people — features loud music and louder costumes. Many revelers dance their way through much of the 2-mile-long route, which winds through some of the city’s most diverse neighborhoods and draws scores of politicians eager for a big statement just a week before the Sept. 9 primary.
“We come out to have a good time and that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” Brooklyn resident Peggy Gabriel told CBS 2’s Weijia Jiang.
PHOTOS: 2014 West Indian Day Parade
“A lot of boroughs come together,” said Brooklyn resident Nathaniel Martin. “A lot of people and cultures come together to celebrate the West Indian life. It’s awesome.”
“Everyone’s enjoying life being free — drinking, dancing, having fun in the streets,” one woman told 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck.
“I live in Georgia, but I fly up for this event,” another woman said. “I come up for the experience.”
‘It’s for us to celebrate our culture ’cause some of us cannot go back to the Caribbean,” paradegoer Naoimi Duncan told CBS 2’s Don Champion. “So it’s a little feel of our island.”
“It feels great,” spectator Billie Guy added. “They’re all getting along. It’s love.”
The march, however, often kicks off under a shadow of violence, and this year’s was no different. Hours before the parade stepped off, a recent parolee opened fire on a crowd partaking in pre-dawn festivities not far from the parade site, police Commissioner Bill Bratton said. A 55-year-old man was killed, two other people were wounded, and the suspect was taken into custody.
Last year, two people were fatally stabbed at the parade, and a man was shot to death in 2011. Another man was killed in broad daylight on the parade route years earlier, and a photo of his body on the sidewalk ran in city tabloids.
De Blasio defended the importance of the parade despite the violence that has all too frequently surrounded it.
“The vast, vast majority have a wonderful time, and only a few individuals get out of line,” he said after a breakfast attended by elected officials, parade organizers and local dignitaries before the parade.
“This parade started small, became big and is one of the great events in our city,” he said.
The NYPD deployed 4,000 police officers to try to ensure parade safety this year, and several police helicopters thundered above the festivities. Police were also keeping tabs on any gang activity.
The parade echoes traditional pre-Lenten Carnival festivities and features dancers wearing elaborate, often feathered costumes.
Some in the parade drew attention to social issues, including a group carrying a banner that called for justice in the Eric Garner and Michael Brown cases.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams was this year’s grand marshal. Plenty of other political faces showed up, including de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, who is of Caribbean descent, and their children, Dante and Chiara. They received cheers throughout the march and frequently shook hands with revelers.
“This is an event of incredible importance to the Caribbean-American community of the city,” de Blasio said.
This was de Blasio’s first time marching as mayor; a year ago, the raucous reception he received at the parade foreshadowed his blowout win in the Democratic primary. He and his family marked the occasion last year by debuting a family dance they dubbed “The Smackdown,” which calls for them to pantomime licking their hands, swirling them over the heads, slapping their palms to the concrete and then jumping backward.
The burdens of office didn’t stop the family from delivering an encore performance Monday, drawing cheers from the sweaty crowd and a gasp from the parade’s master of ceremonies.
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