At a meeting on Thursday, Port of Spain Mayor Joel Martinez revealed plans to expand the parade route for bands on Carnival Monday and Tuesday, with an emphasis on making more road time available for bands and improving options for routing revellers to minimise congestion.
That pre-Carnival briefing meeting for the media has long been a traditional effort at clarifying changes for each year’s edition of the festival, a place to announce critical changes and experiments at improving the flow of bands on Monday and Tuesday. Some previous plans haven’t worked out and what tends to last are the evolutionary, incremental improvements that are supported by observed reality and the interests of stakeholders.
The new route also more fully acknowledges the presence of the Socadrome; the private enterprise stage built at the Jean Pierre Complex for the sixth year as an alternative space for party bands to appear. The new routes also expand Carnival more integrally into St James, creating a parade route that runs from Mathura Street in the west to Charlotte Street in the east, with some optional "escape routes" built into the planning that will allow bands to escape congestion and keep their masqueraders moving.
These are small changes and improvements in the management of the capital city's staging of festival, and it's an effort that will be hard tested over the next two days. Matching that effort at planning is a refreshed commitment by police officers to clamp down on tools for violence with a warning to both spectators and masqueraders to leave weapons at home.
“You cannot convince a police officer that you are coming to a Carnival event with a weapon to enjoy yourself,” warned Deputy Commissioner of Police Jayson Forde.
Officers won’t only be on the alert to seize the obviously lethal, they will also be on the lookout for objects that can be repurposed as weapons. At the top of that list are glass bottles, which are subject to Legal Notice 45 of 2020.
Forde reminded the public that anyone found with a glass bottle within 100 metres of a Carnival event can be fined or arrested. Ongoing observation of the event will be paired with drone surveillance, roadblocks and vehicle inspections, so early departures to the capital city are advised. Smartphone users should have the TTPS app on their devices along with their ridesharing and band locator software. The police app allows citizens to report dangerous situations either as a report or distress call.
A commitment to a safe, enjoyable Carnival is an annual promise from the authorities with oversight for the event but backing those words with actionable plans demonstrating foresight and planning is a welcome advance.