AP

Mardi Gras brings joy – but also worry over violent crime

Feb 20, 2023, 8:02 AM | Updated: Feb 22, 2023, 5:49 am

King of Zulu Nick Spears toasts from his float during the traditional Krewe of Zulu Parade on Mardi...

King of Zulu Nick Spears toasts from his float during the traditional Krewe of Zulu Parade on Mardi Gras Day in New Orleans, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Sunny skies and unusually warm weather fueled the street party fervor in New Orleans as the city celebrated Mardi Gras — Fat Tuesday — the annual, ebullient climax of Carnival season, marked by shoulder-to-shoulder crowds on raucous Bourbon Street and thousand lining St. Charles Avenue for family-friendly parades.

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 Tremé area to awaken people for Mardi Gras. As the sun rose, parade watchers were already claiming spots along the 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 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 is nearing a Wednesday deadline. 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 leaders with hearty shouts of “Hail Zulu!” and “Hail Rex,” traditional mayoral tributes.

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. A statement given to The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate shed little light.

“Mardi Gras is a time where satire and jest are on full display,” spokesperson Gregory Joseph said in a prepared statement. “The city has been enjoying a safe and healthy Carnival,” the statement said, adding that the mayor was looking forward to continuing the celebration.

It was a continuous costume party along French Quarter streets, where carnival revelers typically gather for a more naughty experience. Attire ran the gamut from skimpy lingerie to full nun’s habits. Some costumes shimmered with sequins. Some evoked historical eras. And some evoked current events.

Jerome FitzGibbons wore a phony nose, mustache and glasses and carried binoculars as he strolled Chartres Street with a large white sphere strapped to the top of his head — he was a Chinese spy balloon. He and his similarly-clad wife, Jennifer, moved to New Orleans from New Jersey.

“This is our kind of crazy,” she said.

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.

New Orleans’ raucous celebration is the nation’s most well-known, but the holiday is also celebrated throughout much of Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. Mobile, Alabama, lays claim to the oldest Mardi Gras celebration in the country.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

moore redmond washington...

Associated Press

U.S. Supreme Court rules against Redmond couple challenging foreign income tax

The court ruled in the case of Charles and Kathleen Moore, of Redmond, Washington after they previously challenged a $15,000 tax bill.

3 hours ago

Image:The New York Giants' Willie Mays poses for a photo during baseball spring training in 1972. M...

Associated Press

Willie Mays, Giants’ electrifying ‘Say Hey Kid,’ dies at 93

Willie Mays, whose singular combination of talent, drive and exuberance made him one of baseball’s greatest players, has died. He was 93.

2 days ago

Image: This photo provided by the Washington Department of Ecology shows a derailed BNSF train on t...

Associated Press

Judge orders BNSF to pay Washington tribe nearly $400M for trespassing with oil trains

BNSF Railway must pay the sum to a Native American tribe in Washington after it ran 100-car trains with crude oil on the tribe's reservation.

3 days ago

Photo: In this photo provided by Tieanna Joseph Cade, an amusement park ride is shown stuck with 30...

Associated Press

Crews rescue 28 people trapped upside down high on Oregon amusement park ride

Emergency crews in Oregon rescued 28 people after they were stuck dangling upside down high on a ride at a century-old amusement park.

3 days ago

juneteenth shooting texas...

Associated Press

2 killed and 6 wounded in shooting during a Juneteenth celebration in a Texas park

A shooting in a Texas park left two people dead and six wounded, including two children, on Saturday, authorities said.

4 days ago

Photo: Israeli soldiers drive a tank near the Israeli-Gaza border, in southern Israel, Wednesday, J...

Jack Jeffery, The Associated Press

8 Israeli soldiers killed in southern Gaza in deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months

An explosion in Gaza killed eight Israeli soldiers, the military said Saturday, making it the deadliest attack on Israeli forces in months.

5 days ago

Mardi Gras brings joy – but also worry over violent crime