It could have been far worse.
Despite one incident early Monday morning in Crown Heights, Brooklyn that saw five people shot and wounded, the central Brooklyn area saw relative peace as volunteers from anti-violence community groups and police worked together to prevent other gun violence from occurring.
The effort sought to stop the rashes of shootings seen in the area during past celebrations of J’Ouvert, which had to be canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Police saturated the areas of Flatbush, Canarsie, and Crown Heights, deterring much of the violence that has plagued the previous weekend. Their heavy presence made it possible to make rapid arrests of two men for the lone shooting at the street party during the unofficial J’Ouvert festivities.
Members of the GodSquad from the 67th Precinct and numerous volunteers, including Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, fanned out throughout Flatbush and Crown Heights during Sunday night and early Monday morning, wearing orange shirts and riding a makeshift float touting non-violence.
Williams spoke to the volunteers before spreading the word of peace in the community, saying it will take residents themselves along with police to stop the violence.
“Eight years ago, when I became [City] Council member, we were trying to figure out what the hell to do with this gun violence. So we just started showing up, anywhere, anyplace where it was occurring,” Williams told the crowd at the corner of Church Avenue and Nostrand Avenues. “Then Rev. [Al] Sharpton said we have to occupy corners. and I just kept going.”
But he added, “I don’t want people to lose the gains we had made – right before the pandemic hit, this violence thing is happening all across the country don’t let them fool you that things are going on because we are looking for better police at the exact same time. Every community deserves to have both of those things. and we demand both of those things.”
Councilwoman Farah Louis echoed Williams’ words, but added, “We have work to do and we want to encourage people to stay home. We are out here celebrating but it’s safer at home.”
Andre ‘AT’ Mitchell, of Man-Up! Inc., emphasized that despite there being no official parades or festivities for J’Ouvert or carnival, they are splitting into four groups to hit as many locations as possible.
“This is a different year in the making – for those of us who know, we were here last year and the years before that, and we know this is a different Labor Day – a different animal and put our ideas in our side pocket and envision what this Labor Day is going to be,” Mitchell said. “People are out here celebrating making us look good as African people. Earlier, things went really well and we want to continue that – just be smart – our job is not to go and break up fights or run towards the bullets – God forbid. Our job is to prevent it from happening.”
Anthony Beckford, president of Black Lives Matter’s Brooklyn chapter, has been pushing for a change in the conversation to focus on stopping the violence within the black and brown communities.
“This means community, it means peace, it means progress in what we’re doing – usually they don’t show this side of the community, but this is what we are doing every day,” Beckford said.”This is what the media needs to show more of that we are not dependent so much on the system to make changes – its the community that needs to make the changes that are needed.”
Marid Delus of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America lost her son to gun violence several years ago and now gives her energy to stop shootings.
“I’m a survivor and with my fellow survivors I’m here to help stop the gun violence in Brooklyn and throughout the country – I want to make sure people remain safe and with their families. I’m hoping we have an impact, people who know we are, they know the GodSquad they know our message,” Delus said.