For most of the day, it was Brooklyn's version of Main Street USA. People waved flags from their front stoops, drumbeats filled the air and women in brightly colored sequined costumes and feather headdresses danced to reggae music as they marched Monday in the West Indian Day Parade.
But after the parade ended, by early evening, at least two men were fatally stabbed in Crown Heights, police said.
Despite the violence that marred the parade’s end, Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Tuesday said the NYPD deserves credit for “taking aggressive steps” for making the weekend safer for all. “They had extensive outreach in the communities in Brooklyn where there’ve been problems in the past and as a result this holiday weekend, and Labor Day itself, was far safer than a year ago.”
He added that the parade organizers and the community boards also worked hard to bring down the violence associated with the parade. Still, with a city of 8.4 million people, Bloomberg said, “there’s never going to be a day where, unfortunately, there isn’t something going wrong.”
The NYPD has arrested a suspect in one of the fatal stabbings.
Gabriel Hernandez of Brooklyn was arrested and charged with murder and criminal possession of a weapon in connection with the fatal stabbing of a 26-year-old man on St. John's Place.
In a separate incident, police said a 27-year-old man was stabbed in the neck around 6 p.m. at Eastern Parkway and Bedford Avenue. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.
The violence came a year after a bystander was killed by a stray bullet hours after the parade when police fired on an armed suspect. The annual event celebrates the culture of the Caribbean islands and is one of the city's largest outdoor events.
"The plan for today is to have a peaceful event," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said after a pre-parade breakfast. "We have a lot of police officers deployed to make certain it's as peaceful and safe as it can be."
NYPD spokesman Paul Browne, walking alongside the police steel-drum band’s float, said parade-goers had been spared from such events so far this year.
“There were years ago, decades ago, where it was often very chaotic, and in recent years not so much,” he said. “I know we had some shootings last year, which was awful, but this year it’s been very quiet and people seem to be having a great time.”
During last year's parade, City Council member Jumaane Williams was detained by police as he tried to walk along a closed street. Williams, who is black, said he was stopped because police unfairly target black and Hispanic men. The NYPD said he was temporarily detained to verify his identity.
"We're trying to have just a little bit less excitement than we had last year," Williams said shortly before this year's breakfast. "But we're still going to have a good time."
About 20 Occupy Wall Street protesters were told they had to leave the parade in the middle of the route because they did not have a permit. They ended up briefly standing off to the side of the street surrounded by police officers.
Jackie DiSalvo, a Baruch College professor, said Occupy had been invited to march alongside the transit workers' union.
Police later agreed to let the Occupy protesters back onto the route, but they were forced to relinquish their banners and signs.
Colby Hamilton and Tracie Hunte contributed reporting