Boston police and organizers asked for peace Friday as the city gets ready to mark Carnival Day two years after a woman was fatally shot on Blue Hill Avenue as she stepped away from the daybreak party that kicks off the Caribbean celebration.
Extra officers were expected to go on duty Friday evening to try to prevent violence from erupting before the Saturday morning procession known as J’ouvert, in which partiers wear costumes — often a blend of humor and the macabre — and some cover themselves in paint, oil, and powder.
Tens of thousands of revelers are expected to attend J’ouvert and the afternoon parade.
“There’s nothing worse than having a bad incident leading up to the parade,” Boston Police Commissioner William B. Evans said Friday during a news conference. “That ruins the parade for everyone.”
Evans said some people party overnight in anticipation of J’ouvert, which is scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. Saturday at the intersection of Talbot and Blue Hill avenues in Dorchester. Organizers say participants can begin to gather at 5:30 a.m. Evans declined to specify how many officers are being deployed.
“We’re going to have a hot night as far as the weather goes, but we’ll be there in force,” Evans said. “We’re hoping that it’s the safest carnival ever.”
Officials shortened the J’ouvert route last year after 26-year-old Dawnn Jaffier was shot and killed during the celebration on Aug. 23, 2014. Organizers also changed rules for the procession, asking people to refrain from bringing oil, powder, and paint.
“You can paint up yourself as much as you want, you can powder yourself, but you cannot come on the road with it,” said Shirley Shillingford, president of the Caribbean American Carnival Association of Boston, which organizes the festival.
Prosecutors have said Jaffier was caught in the crossfire of a gunfight between two gang members when she was fatally struck. Two men have been indicted on first-degree murder charges for engaging in the gun battle that left Jaffier dead and another woman with a leg grazed by a bullet.
Last year, J’ouvert and the parade were peaceful, but the hours before the event were not without violence. Tedford Davis Jr., 27, was fatally shot on Creston Street in Dorchester several hours before J’ouvert on Aug. 29, 2015. No one has been charged with his killing, according to the Suffolk district attorney’s office.
Jaffier’s father, Ian, said he hopes for a peaceful day this year.
“There’s good and there’s evil,” he said in a telephone interview. “Choose good.”
Last week, people gathered at the West End House Boys and Girls Club in Allston to honor Jaffier with a block party dubbed “Biggest Fun Ever 2K16.” Jaffier was a member at the club and later joined the staff.
“It was all about the kids and it was a beautiful night,” Ian Jaffier said.
Shillingford asked troublemakers to stay away from the festival.
“If you have [a] violent streak, stay in your house. Don’t come out on the road because this is a family-type event,” she said Friday morning during a Carnival Day event at City Hall.
She said it is unfair to associate J’ouvert and the parade with violence.
“If something happens the week of carnival, they blame it on carnival,” Shillingford said.
The Carnival Day parade is set to start at 1 p.m. at the intersection of Warren Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard in Roxbury, police said. The J’ouvert and afternoon parades both end at Franklin Park, where people can shop vendors selling food, jewelry, clothing, and other items, Shillingford said.
She said 14 bands are participating in the parade, which features thousands of masqueraders dressed in colorful costumes and loud music.
Among the bands is D’Midas International of Boston, which chose a planet-inspired theme, said Iona Headley, the bandleader.
Headley said everyone can call themselves Caribbean on Carnival Day.
“Outside of my birthday, Easter, and Christmas, that’s the highlight of my life,” said Headley, a native of St. Kitts and Nevis. “I think I’m back in the Caribbean.”
Mudd Band chose a bamboo theme and constructed costumes from recyclable materials, said Fabian DePeiza, the bandleader.
“Carnival Day is a time to celebrate,” he said. “It’s a time to leave all your worries behind.”