The Notting Hill Carnival, which celebrates the United Kingdom's Caribbean heritage, got under way Sunday with all of the colorful costumes, spicy food and loud music that distinguish this annual event. The difference this year is that it comes just weeks after the violent riots that erupted in London and spread to other major cities in Great Britain and left five dead. More than 5,000 police officers patrolled the streets, armed with special stop-and-frisk powers that are still in effect, the Independent reported:
Plainclothes officers, a circling helicopter and 40 pre-emptive arrests were part of the police's "robust" strategy to reassert London's reputation which took a hammering during the riots. As of 8pm last night, 53 arrests had been made at the carnival, for offences including drugs possession, public order, theft, criminal damage, robbery and assault.
The day began with Jour Ouvert, which involves festival-goers covering themselves in paint and flour, an event inspired by the Indian festival of Holi.
Some 70 floats took part in the children's day parade. Chilly weather and showers failed to dampen spirits.
The two-day event, which draws a million revelers and tourists from all over Europe, will be a test for both the police and the minority community in London. We can only hope that the celebrations will overcome — at least temporarily — the lingering bitterness. The sounds of soca and calypso and the aroma of jerk chicken will not wash away the serious alienation of many young Brits.
Read about the carnival in the Independent.
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