In my previous post, I detailed how I was in the Williamsburg part of Brooklyn watching the annual celebration of the giglio (lilies) at Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
All was well and good and fun. Well, and slow, but that’s okay.
And then the violence started. Four years in NYC and the first time I see violence is in a Catholic religious procession. Wow.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I was thoroughly enjoying the pending convergence of the two giglios (lilies). The saint giglio (also called the “tower giglio”) had already arrived at its destination and was spun around. I took the opportunity to zoom in on the top of it. Nice workmanship. Well done.
In the next photo, you can see the band on the tower giglio’s dais. In turn with the boat giglio, they played music and made announcements.
All of a sudden, to my immediate left, some scuffling broke out amongst the boat giglio’s lift crew. It wasn’t a minor one, but it started very small. Here’s the first picture I took.
You can see that everyone spotted it at the same time. There wasn’t a clear source of the fight, but it just seemed to spring up in that general area.
A couple of seconds later, you can see that it had spread. Closer to me in fact. The cane or baton you see in the next picture was held by the head of the lift crew.
Then it really started getting closer and much more violent. Nobody was hurt (at least that I’m aware of), but you can see the tenseness and the concern really breaking out. The guy in the orange was another leader of the lift crew.
At this point, I began getting concerned for my own safety. My back was against a short wall of flour supplies for a vendor and I couldn’t move. For a few seconds, the crowd surged against me and those around me and I figured the wall would collapse and people would start to fall on me. It wouldn’t be a big drop or anything, but I could feel the flour bags start to shift with the crush as the weight of the scufflers and crowd pressed against me. For a moment, I didn’t want to be there. (But I kept taking my pictures!)
At that moment, the cops started to arrive. They did the first things that cops do in this situation: started yelling for people to get out of the way and started to head toward the perceived source of the disturbance.
And, in response, the fight seemed to shift to a whole different area of the lift crew. Actually, it was in a sub-group that wasn’t even near the giglio. (In the picture below, you can see attention being drawn to that new area.)
I gotta tell you: calling it a “fight” is a bit over the top. For the most part, it just was grappling and shoving. I think I may have seen one fist thrown, but I’m not sure about that. Mostly, the guys in the green shirts just sort of shifted around. There really wasn’t even any yelling. Apart from the cops, at least.
Notice the bystanders. No worries there. At this point it just seemed to be a bit of posturing and bravado on the part of a few lifters.
More fighting, but no more real concern on anyone’s part. You might want to note that the photos were taken about 2 seconds apart. We aren’t talking a long production here. But I was in a great spot to capture what there was that had been going on.
And then the cops arrived in force.
And more force. I had noticed there were a lot of cops in the area much earlier and had just thought they were catching some easy overtime. I guess they knew better than me. I imagine this isn’t all that unusual.
And then the band on the boat giglio started to play some music. Hey, it does have power to soothe the savage breast.
They played and played for a couple of minutes. I don’t think it did much to help, but it sure didn’t hurt.
About two minutes later, there was another minor flare-up. It only lasted a few moments though.
And five minutes later, another lift.
I was in a great spot. Just off the street and right smack dab next to the lifters. I couldn’t have planned it better. (Well, actually, this is sort of what I planned by putting myself next to that wall of flour bags. People kept trying to get me to move back and I’d just say I couldn’t. That forced them to walk past rather than shove me back and out of a good spot.)
Despite the fight, I have to admit that the next sequence of pictures is my favorite. These guys, despite the earlier distraction, were interested in moving this thing just right. They liked what they were doing and they loved the attention.
I mean, look at these guys. They’re having a great time. And good for them.
Right before the last move, I did have a minor encounter with one of the fighters. I assume it was his sister next to me. He came over and started talking with her. It was in English, but he didn’t make any sense. I presume it was the adreneline talking. He kept cussing and saying he had grabbed so and so about the neck and held on and was really pumped about it. One of his friends came over and they compared war stories about the fight, equally incoherent to me. As the band played, the two of them kind of huddled and started jumping up and down in time with the music. And one guy’s elbow kept getting close to my nose. And he was swinging it with the music and bouncing up and down. And, did I mention I couldn’t move away? I managed to lift up my arm between my face and his arm, but it wasn’t needed. Thankfully.
Anyway, on that high note, I left just after the boat giglio passed me. Those two also seemed to have pulled out of the lift as they vanished down the street a moment or two earlier.
So, I missed the joining of the giglio, but I would have been in not as good a position as I had been for the rest of it.
So, was my friend right? Was it a “don’t miss” event? Yeah, I have to admit I did like it. At the very least, I got to see an absolutely genuine Italian neighborhood in celebration. (Little Italy is just mostly a tourist trap.) So, yeah, it was just fine. I just have to remember not to believe their posted times.