The Commercial Appeal

Mardi Gras brings joy – but also some worry over violent crime

- Kevin Mcgill

NEW ORLEANS – New Orleans’ annual Carnival season entered its ebullient crescendo Tuesday with thousands of revelers gathering in the French Quarter and lining miles of parade routes in a citywide Mardi Gras celebratio­n underpinne­d this year by violent crime concerns and political turmoil.

Celebratio­ns began before dawn in some parts of the city. TV crews captured images of The North Side Skull and Bones gang – skeleton-costumed revelers – spreading out through the Treme area to awaken people for Mardi Gras.

As the sun rose, peeking through breaks in the cloudy sky, parade watchers were already claiming spots along the St. Charles Avenue parade route. Barbecue smells wafted through the Central Business District.

Revelers were undeterred by violence that marred a glitzy weekend parade. Gunfire that broke out during a parade Sunday night left a teenager dead and four others injured, including a 4-yearold girl. Police quickly arrested Mansour Mbodj, 21, for illegally carrying a weapon, then upgraded the charge to seconddegr­ee murder.

Officials stressed Monday that the shooting was an isolated event.

“It’s discouragi­ng, but it’s not going to stop me from coming,” said Roz Walker, 55. She and her friend Tracy Dunbar are Baton Rouge, Louisiana, residents who were among the crowd awaiting the parades of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club and the Rex Organizati­on.

“In our 40-plus years of coming to Mardi Gras we’ve never been involved in a situation at all,” she said.

Crime has contribute­d to dissatisfa­ction with New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell. She won reelection easily in 2021, but has suffered a myriad of political problems since, including criticism about crime, the slow pace of major street repairs and questions over her personal use of a city-owned French Quarter apartment.

A recall petition launched last year has a Wednesday deadline. One of the organizers, Eileen Carter, believes the movement has enough signatures.

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