Report claims Caribbean J’Ouvert’s battleground for gangs
NEW YORK, Sep. CMC – In the wake of the shooting death of two people earlier this month during Caribbean J’ouvert celebrations here, a new report claims that the pre-dawn event is a battleground for gangs warring over territory to sell drugs.
“At the heart of this underworld battle is J’Ouvert, the Labor Day street party that’s a magnet for gang violence,” the New York Daily News reported. “The conflict, these gang members said, is the primary reason for bloodshed at the annual festival.”
New York police said that Tiarah Poyau, 22, and Trinidadian Tyreke Borel, 17, were fatally shot in separate incidents at the September 5 celebration in Brooklyn. No arrests have been made in the Borel shooting.
Police also said a 72-year-old woman was among five other people wounded in non-fatal shootings and stabbings surrounding the event.
While authorities are yet to officially declare whether they suspect gang involvement in any of the incidents, two gang members, according to the Daily News, claim warring sets of gangs carried out gun or knife attacks during the festival.
The paper said J’Ouvert traverses drug-dealing turf in the Crown Heights and Flatbush sections of Brooklyn that are “controlled by various gangs” — including FolkNation, an offshoot of the original Chicago-based gang of the same name.
“J’Ouvert (is) just one night,” one gang member told the Daily News. “We out here every day.”
For more than a year, the Daily News said members of four gangs – the Eight-Trey Crips, the Franklin Avenue Family Crew, which is a Crips affiliate, a local Bloods set, and the Folk Nation – have been fighting over drug-dealing spots in at least three Brooklyn housing complexes.
Four members or gang associates have been killed in the conflict and at least 11 others wounded in gunfire or knife attacks, the paper said.
It said this year’s shootings and stabbings at J’Ouvert occurred in spite of beefed-up police presence prompted by the slaying at J’Ouvert last year of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Jamaican-born legal aide, Carey Gabay.
Gabay, 43, was hit by a stray bullet fired during a shootout between gang members, according to the Daily News.
As a result of its location, the Daily News said the festival has become a proving ground for gun-toting drug dealers and gangland enforcers.
“They all see each other out there (at J’Ouvert), and some of them are shooting,” said Natasha Wallace, a former Black Guerrilla Family gang member in Baltimore, Maryland, who now works to end underworld beefs in Brooklyn and Queens, New York before they turn deadly, according to the Daily News.
“J’Ouvert just amplifies the beef every year,” Wallace said.
The turf being fought over by the gangs is extremely valuable, according to several Folk Nation members, who estimate their gang’s drug-dealing operation alone earns up to US$2,000 a day, the Daily News said.
It said a disagreement over how to share those proceeds inside the Ebbets Field Apartments in Crown Heights led to a rift between Folk Nation and the Eight-Trey Crips, once allies, a little over six years ago.
In 2015, the Franklin Avenue Family Crew and the Bloods joined the conflict, hoping to exploit the Folk Nation/Eight-Trey split, gang members told the Daily News, with retaliatory shootings becoming commonplace and leading all four gangs to declare war on one another.
One Brooklyn Bloods member, who identified himself by his nickname, “Gotti,” said the Bloods’ and Franklin Avenue Family Crew’s original rationale for joining the gang war — achieving territorial gains — had been eclipsed by other, more personal beefs between the gangs, according to the Daily News.
“People just pop off (fire bullets) over anything now,” he said.
On the eve of this year’s Caribbean J’Ouvert, the Daily News said cops swept in and busted 35 alleged “gangbangers” and confiscated 10 guns in an effort to tamp down on the violence.
Nonetheless, a New York Police Department (NYPD) source, with knowledge of the conflict, told the Daily News that gang members or their associates are believed responsible for at least some of the violence at J’Ouvert this year.
In the meantime, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has ruled out cancelling J’Ouvert activities in the Caribbean community in Brooklyn because of shootings, saying that it is an event that’s “important to the community.”
The Mayor, however, said, a day after the grand West Indian American Day Carnival, on September 5, on Eastern Parkway, that the city would consider changing the hours of the pre-dawn event.
In order to avert violence and bolster security at J’ouvert, New York City issued a permit, for the first time in the event’s history, to organizers, who had worked with community activists to stave off violence, the New York Times said.
Walter T. Mosley, a New York State Assemblyman in Brooklyn, has called for suspension of J’ouvert in the Caribbean community in Brooklyn.
But Grenadian American New York City Councilman Jumaane D. Williams, who represents the 45th Council District in Brooklyn, dismissed calls for the end to J’ouvert.
“I don’t want people to have the false impression that you got rid of J’ouvert, and now there’s no more gun violence in the city of New York,” he said.
At the pre-Labor Day Carnival Breakfast, Williams had blamed “chronic violence, the chronic problem in our community” for this year’s J’ouvert shootings.
“I’m sure people are not paying attention on days when there’s no J’ouvert,” he said. “The problem is not the celebration. Let’s deal with that and let Black people have a right to celebrate.”