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Tuesday September 4, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) -- It was Brooklyn’s version of Main Street USA. People waved flags from their front stoops, drumbeats filled the air and women in brightly colored sequined costumes and feather headdresses danced to reggae music as they marched Monday in the West Indian Day Parade.

The festive climate prevailed a year after violence marred the annual celebration, which celebrates the culture of the Caribbean islands and is one of the city’s largest outdoor events.

In 2011, a bystander was killed by a stray bullet hours after the parade when police fired on an armed suspect.

"The plan for today is to have a peaceful event," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said after a pre-parade breakfast. "We have a lot of police officers deployed to make certain it’s as peaceful and safe as it can be."

During last year’s parade, City Council member Jumaane Williams was detained by police as he tried to walk along a closed street. Williams, who is black, said he was stopped because police unfairly target black and Hispanic men. The NYPD said he was temporarily detained to verify his identity.

"We’re trying to have just a little bit less excitement than we had last year," Williams said shortly before this year’s parade. "But we’re still going to have a good time."

Before the parade got under way, city council Speaker Christine Quinn announced the start of a new $600,000 partnership with the City University of New York that will provide free legal immigration services around the city. The "Citizenship Now!" initiative will offer services at 30 locations starting Oct. 1.

About 20 Occupy Wall Street protesters were told they had to leave the parade in the middle of the route because they did not have a permit. They ended up briefly standing off to the side of the street surrounded by police officers.

Jackie DiSalvo, a Baruch College professor, said Occupy had been invited to march alongside the transit workers’ union.

Police later agreed to let the Occupy protesters back onto the route, but they were forced to relinquish their banners and signs.