The Reporter (Vacaville)

Crime shrugged off on Mardi Gras

- By 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, peaking 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-year-old girl. Police quickly arrested Mansour Mbodj, 21, for illegally carrying a weapon, then upgraded the charge to second-degree 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 residents who were among the crowd awaiting the parades of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club and the Rex Organizati­on. They have been visiting New Orleans on Mardi Gras for decades.

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

First-time Mardi Gras participan­t Ken Traylor of Houston had heard about the shooting, but shrugged it off. “I just think you have to be careful with your surroundin­gs,” he said. “Things happen nowadays everywhere.”

Crime has contribute­d to dissatisfa­ction with New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell. She won reelection easily in 2021, but has suffered myriad 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 is nearing deadline today. One of the organizers, Eileen Carter, said she believes the movement has enough signatures, but will make a last-minute push.

“We're going to have people canvassing the parade routes,” Carter said. “That's been really helpful to us.”

There was no sign of political rancor as Cantrell watched St. Charles Avenue parades from a restricted access reviewing stand with city council members in front of Gallier Hall, the 19th century Greek Revival style building that once served as City Hall. She greeted Zulu's parade leaders with hearty shouts of “Hail Zulu!” in a traditiona­l mayoral tribute.

It was in stark contrast to a scene from the weekend when Cantrell was captured in a social media video gesturing with her middle-finger as a parade passed a city reviewing stand. What sparked the gesture was unclear. The mayor's press office did not respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is the culminatio­n of Carnival season, which officially begins each year on Jan. 6, the 12th day after Christmas, and closes with the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday.

 ?? GERALD HERBERT — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Queen of Zulu Dr. Christy Lagarde Spears rides on a float during the traditiona­l Krewe of Zulu Parade on Mardi Gras Day in New Orleans on Tuesday.
GERALD HERBERT — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Queen of Zulu Dr. Christy Lagarde Spears rides on a float during the traditiona­l Krewe of Zulu Parade on Mardi Gras Day in New Orleans on Tuesday.

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