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27th Annual Cambridge Carnival Cancelled Following Threats of Gun Violence

Organizers canceled the annual Cambridge Carnival, which usually passes through Kendall Square.
Organizers canceled the annual Cambridge Carnival, which usually passes through Kendall Square. By Shera S. Avi-Yonah
By Declan J. Knieriem and Katelyn X. Li, Crimson Staff Writers

Despite organizers' efforts to reschedule, the 27th annual Cambridge Carnival will not occur this year due to heightened safety concerns.

The Cambridge Carnival — an annual costume parade and celebration of Afro-Caribbean culture — was originally scheduled to occur Sept. 8. But just over a week before the planned date, the city and Cambridge Carnival organizers released a joint statement announcing the cancellation.

“The safety of the Cambridge community and those planning to participate in this event or any Cambridge event is paramount and will always serve as the highest priority as it pertains to making difficult decisions like this,” the statement reads.

The decision shortly followed a series of shootings — one of which was fatal — that occurred within 10 hours of each other near Boston’s Caribbean Carnival Parade on the weekend of Aug. 24.

Cambridge Police Department received “specific information” pertaining to possible gun violence at the event, according to CPD spokesperson Jeremy Warnick, though he declined to identify the source of the information. He reiterated that safety is the department’s top priority.

“You’re never able to necessarily guarantee safety.” Warnick said. “But again, due to the information that we had, and with our priority in terms of making sure that everyone would be safe, the commissioner made that decision.”

Carnival organizers met with City Manager Louis A. DePasquale Tuesday to discuss the future of the event. According to Carnival President Nicola A. Williams, the city manager and police commissioner could not reveal further details surrounding this year’s safety threat.

Williams said she is concerned that the cancellation of Cambridge Carnival might direct a message of exclusion to the Afro-Caribbean community.

“How do I, as the leader of the carnival, explain to the community that I don't have too many answers?” she said. “When black and brown people at a national level are feeling squeezed out, pushed out, and being told to go back to your country… it’s hard.”

Williams said, however, that the meeting led to a productive discussion about the importance of preserving Carnival in future years. She added that the 2019 Somerville HONK! Festival has invited Carnival to participate in its event in October.

In a Monday City Council meeting, several residents spoke in support of the Carnival. Drucilla Edwards, a member of the Cambridge Carnival committee, said the cancellation affects not only participants but the vendors as well.

“This event truly impacted everybody, especially those vendors who contributed a lot of time and money into this event and lost money in this event,” she said.

City Manager spokesperson Lee Gianetti wrote that rescheduling the outdoor carnival to its rain date would not be possible due to a continued threat of violence. He also said the city is working with the Carnival committee to organize an alternative indoor event.

“While we support, and will continue to support the Cambridge Carnival, the City will not put the safety of our residents, parade participants, and spectators at risk when we are aware of such credible and concerning information,” Gianetti wrote.

— Declan J. Knieriem can be reached at declan.knieriem@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DeclanKnieriem.

— Katelyn X. Li can be reached at katelyn.li@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter at @KatelynLi2.

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