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Colourful floats, elaborate costumes, politicians and merrymakers filled the streets yesterday for the annual West Indian Day Parade, a Caribbean celebration and political see-and-be-seen event that was marred by a fatal shooting nearby before the official festivities got under way.
The parade, one of the city’s largest, has been scarred by violence in recent years.
Hours before the parade stepped off, a “career criminal”, who had recently been paroled, opened fire on a crowd of people who had already begun parade festivities in Brooklyn, police Commissioner William Bratton said. A 55-year-old man was killed, 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.
Mayor Bill de Blasio defended the importance of the parade despite the violence that has often surrounded it.
“The vast, vast majority have a wonderful time and only a few individuals get out of line,” he said at a breakfast attended by elected officials, parade organisers and local dignitaries before the parade.
“This parade started small, became big and is one of the great events in our city,” he said.
Sporting a colourful tribal print shirt, the mayor was joined on the hot, humid day by his wife, Chirlane McCray, who is of Caribbean descent, and their children, Dante and Chiara.
The parade celebrates Caribbean culture and echoes traditional pre-Lenten Carnival festivities, with dancers wearing elaborate, feathered costumes.
The event, which draws more than one million people, also provides one of the last big stages before the September 9 primary.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams was this year’s grand marshal.