NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Terry Gable leaves no doubt about where he will be on Sunday when the Big 7 Social Aid and Pleasure Club reprises its annual Mother's Day parade - a celebration that ended abruptly last year when a spray of bullets turned joy and music into panic and bloodshed in New Orleans' 7th Ward.
"I'm going to be at the parade, in the parade, all around the parade, all over the parade. I am the parade," Gable said, grinning. He sat on a friend's front porch a few blocks from where the shooting happened on a street of jammed-together shotgun-style houses. "It's important to go back to let the community know that we're not going to let that type of activity take over our community," Gable said.
Nine people face federal gun and drug charges in connection with the shooting, including the two men identified by police as the gunmen. Authorities believe the shooting was linked to drug and gang activity, but say little else about motive.
The trial is set for June. Nineteen people were hit by gunfire and one person was injured in the stampede of panicked parade-goers. Nobody died, but the city's tourist-friendly image took another hit from violent crime. Shooting victim Ka'Nard Allen, now just shy of his 12th birthday, has been affected by violence multiple times.
He was grazed on the cheek during the Big 7 parade. He was hit in the leg by gunfire that broke out near his 10th birthday party at his grandmother's house in another part of town. His 5-year-old cousin Briana died in that May 2012 shooting, again blamed on gang violence. Months later, his father was stabbed to death.
Ka'Nard's mother, Tynia, declined interview requests. But she hasn't ruled out going to this weekend's parade with her son, said Bivian "Sonny" Lee III, whose nonprofit Son of a Saint foundation mentors Ka'Nard and about 40 other children. Edward Buckner, head of the Big 7, worries that people associate the violence with the parade instead of the criminals. "They shot people at the Boston Marathon. They've been hijacking planes and blowing up our people," Buckner said. "We can't let this kind of stuff stop us."
Second-line parades led by brass bands are characterized by spectators joining in to create a "second line" of marchers. They are a generations-old African-American tradition in New Orleans. Police estimated several hundred people lined the Big 7 route last year.
One of them was San Francisco-based independent journalist Mark Hertsgaard, struck in the leg by a bullet. An advocate of New Orleans' culture who has written of the port city's historic and economic significance, Hertsgaard said he returned to New Orleans for another second-line parade last year. "I wore the same shirt that I got shot in. I wore the same hat that I got shot in. Because I'll be darned if I'm going to let this experience ruin New Orleans for me," he said in a telephone interview.
Police Chief Ronal Serpas wouldn't comment on security for Sunday's parade except that police will be visible, as they always are. He acknowledged that violent confrontations near parade routes happen, but says they are rare among the hundreds of parades held each year, and usually involve people, away from the route, with personal scores to settle.
"They run across each other with old axes to grind, there might be a problem," he said. And he cannot remember a time when people fired wildly into a crowd the way they did at the parade last year.
"We don't ever want to lose sight of the brilliance of the cultural experience of second-line," he said.