Monday, March 07, 2011

Permitting Culture Crimes

UPDATE: March 9,2011 WWLTV just aired a report: It can be seen here.

WDSU's report can be seen here.

From the report:
Meanwhile, the new city police monitor is asking witnesses to come forward to tell what they saw. If you can help, you are asked to call the police monitor at 681-3217.


We will be calling them in the morning and I urge any of you who can help to do the same.
_____________________

Yeah, I know. A title. What can I say. I'm not quite awake yet.

We've all seen the ads: Come to New Orleans! Great culture! Food, music, art, parades. A great time to be had by all.

Here in New Orleans, however, it would seem that some folks really want all that to stop. First there was a move to stop street musicians. The ordinance allowed for powertools to rev up early and stay late, but not a brass band on a corner. Yeah, you know, the ones in the ads by the Tourism Bureau.

Last week a Costume Market on Frenchmen Street, which had been around for 20 years, was shut down. No permits. For information on that, please see Lord David's piece here.

Last night the rebellious Krewe of Eris rolled through the Bywater, Marigny and French Quarter ending in injuries, arrests, tazing and mace. No permit. I wasn't in the parade, but I saw it and saw the melee in the end. Jules Bentley interviewed one of Eris' organizers a few days ago. Excerpts here.

I've watched Eris for years. Usually wildly imaginative costumes, lots of whooping, a band, some crazy bicycle floats, seemingly tons of feathers, are to be seen and the number of folks at the beginning of the parade's roll swell as onlookers join in along the route. Last night we heard them coming and ran out the door up to Mimi's on Franklin and Royal. Giant bugs rolled by, followed by an imaginative three headed dragon seemingly made of dryer duct tubing, and a really cool bead catapult. Everyone was having a wonderful time, dancing, singing, celebrating. We saw absolutely no aggression, no shoving, no pushing, no fighting, no cops.

We stayed at Mimi's maybe 40 minutes and had a couple beers then headed home. I had just walked in my door, didn't even have it closed yet, when I heard loud chanting coming from Port and Chartres. "Let them go. Let them go. Let them go." I ran back out the door and ran into a man who had been with Eris who told me that the cops had tried to blockade them at Esplanade, then Franklin, now here at Port. When I walked the half block to the intersection I saw cop cars everywhere, cops with a kid face down on the ground and all had their batons out and their attitudes in evidence. The police were very clearly spoiling for a fight.

Again, I wasn't in the parade. I can only tell you what I saw and experienced in my little corner of the Marigny.

A few of the Eris folks decided to run the barricade. I heard a voice say, RUN, and they did. Police were knocking over trash cans to slow them down, and some of the Eris folks (I heard this didn't see it) knocked trash cans over to slow the cops down. I saw a cop shove a very small young man with his baton. The kid fled between two cars and the cop followed body blocking him to the ground. It took four of us to pick this kid up off the sidewalk he was so shaken. The way he was crumpled we thought he'd broken some bones but we had to move him in case there was another stampede. I saw repeated incidents of police threatening and hitting people with their batons. In the end I helped pick four people up off the pavement. Two in the street, one on each sidewalk. As I was helping neighbors pick up trash cans and people, my husband was down the block. More on that in a second.

There were lots of folks with cameras, video and still cameras. One of the cops was concerned about that. Another, who seemed to be in charge, told him "Don't worry about the damn cameras." I heard later that some people with cameras were arrested more than a half an hour after the last and worst of the melee had ended. (I asked several of the photogs to send me links to their pics. I will post them when I get them.)

One young man in angel wings and a long white tunic was put on the ground, handcuffed and put in the back of a squad car. I saw it and hadn't seen or heard him do anything to warrant that. Maybe he had a smart mouth. I don't know but he certainly wasn't fighting the cops when I saw them grab him. It seemed random.

By this time the forward contingent of Eris was headed toward St. Ferdinand and then to Press. The cops took Angel Wings out of the car he was in and walked him back to the cars nearer to Franklin, then that car continued behind the others headed toward Press.

My husband was in that group. He was not parading with them, just got swept along. He saw one cop baiting one kid, trying very hard it seemed to get the kid to swing at him, when the kid did nothing, the cop grabbed him and took him anyway then hit him with his baton. He saw cops tazing people left and right, he heard that it had started back at Franklin, but by the time they got to St. Ferdinand it was in full swing. The police were also using mace by this time. One guy, carrying a guitar case turned to the cops as if asking why they were doing this. He was wearing glasses. The cop grabbed him with one hand and maced him right in the face behind his glasses with the other. My husband said he could see it foaming behind his glasses. His friends tried to help him when he went down, trying to rinse his eyes out with water. They all got tazed. Tazers and mace were used liberally. My husband saw clouds of mace and was caught in it. At Press Street a cop told my husband not to turn around, saying, "Anyone who turns around gets arrested. I don't want to see faces, I want to see backs."

One drummer in the band was told by a cop holding a baton over his head that if he hit that drum again, his head would get hit by the baton. I talked with a friend who was in the parade. He said that yes, some people were dancing on cars and shouldn't have been. He absolutely refutes the report that anyone threw a brick at a cop or anyone else. He said that if the police had seen one of the paraders doing something, they could have come in and gotten that ONE person out, instead, according to him, they came on with total aggression, breaking heads and instruments, and escalating the problem. As the cops became more aggressive, the people in the parade began to defend themselves, not by throwing anything but by trying to run, or put their hands over their heads to protect their skulls. This caused the tazing and macing to begin, which of course, threw more fear into the mix which caused stampeding and a lot of people being knocked down. If there were cars scratched in the Marigny, from what I saw last night, it was most likely caused by people trying to get up on the sidewalk away from the flailing batons.

I'm certainly not going to try to say that no one in the parade might have caused a problem. People join in along the way. There is no set membership with wristbands, there is no parade security. Nevertheless, I've seen this parade many times before and it's pure joy and whimsy. These are delivery people and artists and musicians and young families. (I am hoping that none of the kids I saw in wagons, strollers and on parents' hips were hurt in all this.)

NOPD's behavior was absolutely contrary to trying to maintain peace. It appeared that they were spoiling for a fight. It's what I saw. It's all in the attitude.

I know there will be a ton of comments regarding why don't they just get the permit. Please spare me that argument. What I'm seeing is street musicians, artists and now a small group of Mardi Gras paraders being ticketed, shut down, beat down, tazed and maced because they didn't render unto Caesar to get their golden ticket giving them permission. This grates me.

I can pretty much guarantee that there isn't a gun in the pocket of that brass band musician or that costume maker on Frenchmen or that artist selling sketches on a blanket or in the stroller of the 2 year old dressed like a bunny or in the head of the dryer duct dragon. These are not the criminals, NOPD. I really wish you'd go out and get some of them instead of spending your time shutting down people who choose to create rather than destroy. Seems your priorities are a bit skewed.

But that's just me.

As Lord David puts it: ART IS NOT A CRIME.

Neither is parading during Mardi Gras.

38 Comments:

Blogger WendyW said...

Nicely done. Horrible that it could and did even happen. :(
As I was parading my Krewe of Drunken Whores banner up St. Charles in the Box of Wine Parade, the whole parade was disrupted twice by NOPD blaring their sirens/horns and trying to blow through the EXCEPTIONALLY crowded street...because why? Dunno - I guess it was easier (somehow) to frak up a parade all the way down than to have one intersection of folks clear out more quickly so that they could cross to a more open route. :( I hope that there are MANY witnesses and videos/pics that will publicly show NOPD's brutality and get a big stink on. They have gotten away w/too much for too long even when folks do complain. New management - same as the old management, but quietly douche-ier. GRRR! No telling how many drug deals/robberies that were going on at the same time a half-block over that all of that gun power could have disrupted. But no - gotta bust the artists.

1:10 PM  
Blogger Lord David said...

I saw miles of illegal camps on the St Charles Neutral Ground this weekend, only days after Landrieu & Serpas went on the air & said it wouldn't be tolerated.

Tent cities, rivaling Haiti, non-stop, with their own personal "guardians' drinking in public from glass bottles, another infraction.

The police just watched.

I spoke to one officer who told me they would quietly ticket them, but they had to disperse on their own.

Why are these peaceful tactics not used in the 5th District? Why are we treated like cattle & driven before and angry armed & violent crowd of NOPD?

Because we are too different, to mixed, to diverse to appeal to their mostly white, monied, baseball cap wearing upscale monochromatic vison of New Orleans.

Without the artists, writers & musicians of New Orleans, the City would become a toilet of Big Ass Beer, Strip Joints, drunken frat boys and 'Certified' parade garbage.

Ask yourself why these paraders were attacked on THE WAY HOME...
..so the 5th District could do this out of site of the French Quarter, perhaps.

Meanwhile, the murder rate in the places the NOPD are AFRAID TO GO, rises out of control... the highest in decades.

It's so much easier to mace, taser and beat some clarinet play in angel wings,
isn't it?

WE ARE NOT THEIR CATTLE.
ART IS NOT A CRIME.

1:15 PM  
Blogger WendyW said...

The camps are horrible. And to boot, the damned ladders were well w/in 'tragic' reach of the street should they tip forward!??! So much for true safety, eh Hallpass-Serpas? Nope, just protecting the general tourist(s) from seeing truly artistic culture by busting it while out of view of the Endymion-ic masses and serving the Permit Mammon...and using a happy, festive, ebullient event to practice Tazer-Warz on unarmed folks.

1:51 PM  
Blogger YatPundit said...

dance on a car, you can do thousands of dollars in damage to it. no innocents on either side of this one, it seems

2:06 PM  
Blogger Lord David said...

True Dat, Yat Pundit.

Although I wonder why they waited for many, many blocks instead of pulling the 'dancers' out on the spot?

Whatever the crime, indiscriminately beating, tasering & macing everyone who's running from the beatings, mace & tasers sounds like a third world dictators army, than it does Local Law Enforcement.

Of course, The Goon Squad is never wrong.
Their weapons see to it.

2:49 PM  
Anonymous JP Marat said...

Maybe they should get a permit.

3:03 PM  
Blogger mojo said...

hundreds of innocents on this one actually

3:24 PM  
Blogger mojo said...

hundreds of innocent on this one actually

3:26 PM  
Blogger Micah Monster said...

Personally, if someone danced on my car, I'd be out for blood, but aside from that inexcusable behavior, I think this is a damn shame. Don't supposed this will get on our def dumb and blind media, either.

3:32 PM  
Blogger Andre said...

I happened to be right at the parade where one attendee got shoved against a wall and brutally baton beaten by two cops. Had it not been for other parade followers shouting, they would not have stopped. This is point when part of the parade stopped and encircled the officers chanting: "let him go!"
I don't know the reason why this young gentleman was pursued by the police, but I know it couldn't have possibly warranted the aggression displayed.
It occurred right next to Sound cafe and it truly dispelled the fun and joy that had characterized the night till then .
I know that allot of kids where doing stupid things in excitement, but the spirit of the krewe and the participants are not one of violence, and the extreme measure of aggression was uncalled for.
I understand the reality of police protecting the interest of the city, be it tourism or the festivities of more affluent citizens, but please explain to me what purpose this senseless attack on a neighborhood and its spirit served?
Good job integrating with Community NOPD, great job instilling trust in the populace.

3:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a former member of NOPD who has worked the FQ during Mardi Gras, I can sadly say that some of the information you give does not surprise me in the least.

Please understand that it is not indicative of all (or even most) NOPD, nor even all 5th district cops. The 5th district is notorious. It's a very large and very hardcore dangerous area to police. However, this should not impact a bunch of drunken revelers in costume.

It would be interesting to find out why they barricaded the street. Did they order come down from on high or did they take initiative. Sounds like a bunch of unsupervised hotshots acting like they just watched too many episodes of COPS.

I worked barricade duty and all we did if someone broke it was go round 'em up and point them in the opposite direction (kinda like herding sheep.) The most dangerous it got was people who insisted that they were special friends of the mayor or some big bigwig demanding to drive their limo through and trying to run us over (seriously.)

If a person gets combative, then proper procedure is used to handle that one person. Back-up is called if it's too hot to handle. Somebody's Sgt. should have been called to the scene if it was that bad.

Sounds like the testosterone was flowing a little to heavily in the PD and alcohol a little to heavily in the crowd. Bad mix all around, but the cops are duty bound to protect the safety of people, not to power trip.

Mouthing off to a cop is not illegal. "Police officers cannot have their peace disturbed," meaning that you can tell a cop to go bleep his momma and he can't legally do anything if you aren't also committing a crime. But, they can only bust you for the crime, not being an ass. As far as I know, marching without a permit is hardly an offense which deserves baton wielding, foot chases and randomly throwing people to the ground.

P.S. NOPD doesn't use "mace." They use military grade pepper spray and that shit is NASTY. I'd rather be maced 20 times than get pepper sprayed. It's not a trivial weapon and should NEVER be used in crowds.

4:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

there is a call for witnesses here:

http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=10150100816133862&id=1037957559

4:59 PM  
Anonymous Jacques said...

The innocent people in the parade should have detained the people in the parade who were kicking over mailboxes, tagging cars, and throwing bricks and bottles along the way. It was a parade of destruction that had no permit and once others noticed troublemakers, should have stopped them or walked away. Permits are required to ensure there is an adequate police presence in a parade or march. You can't just start off with 10 people and end up with 250 and think that crowd control is not required. Why were they venturing so far away from the other revelers as well?

5:35 PM  
Blogger barry said...

People get arrested simply for "disrespecting" a cop in New Orleans all the damn time, without a true crime committed. I've witnessed it and heard many reputable accounts. The cop always wins, serve and protect be damned.

I think witnesses should attend and protest at monthly NONPAC meeting. 2nd Wednesday of every month at the police station currently at Burgundy and Bartholomew. Ask the Captain to her face what she is going to do about it. And when she doesn't do anything about it (I'll bet on it, that's her typical response), witnesses should vent to the Public Bureau of Integrity: 504-658-6800

They will try to handle it over the phone, but you want to file a formal complaint, ask for time to arrive and deliver a written complaint. Be emphatic.

5:38 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Wow, you can't make this shit up. Yeah I would be pissed if someone was dancing on my car, but that still doesn't call for pepper spray and tasers. We've noticed how young a lot of the cops are...a little too power hungry maybe?

The costume mkt, the parade and musicians are just really ridiculous things for the city to try and patrol when violent crime is still so out of control..are these young cops afraid to go after the real criminals?

The "tent cities' and the ladders drive me nuts. I'm not even living here (yet) and I know those ladders aren't supposed to be up that far. And roping off huge areas of neutral ground- isn't that a no no too? We were at Lee Circle and these frat boys had such a huge area roped off for 10 of them and were really nasty to anyone that pushed into "their area"- cops did nothing about it.

5:39 PM  
Blogger mardi claw said...

I think we should start a krewe of murderers, and maybe, just maybe we can get the police to arrest one. asshats! BITCH LANDRIEU good job, ya gentrified piece of work.

5:54 PM  
Anonymous Sabrinna St. Sinn said...

Thank you for sharing this. Too often, these things are kept quiet even though our silence only enables these kinds of things.
It's disappointing to hear that such horrible acts of violence are being conducted in such a beautiful place and against such beautiful people.
I can only hope that people read your post and are inspired to do everything they can to prevent this from EVER happening again.

6:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The policeman isn't there to create disorder; the policeman is there to preserve disorder.
Richard J. Daley

6:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, we can't make a really good argument about the NOPD from this example. There were a lot of people not in the spirit of the event causing a lot of trouble. Some of my friends said they felt threatened, and there certainly was vandalism. If the parade had been non-destructive, then we could make a case that the NOPD acted unreasonably. Because of the idiots that came to the parade to misbehave, we can't make that case. Even though it is clear that NOPD acted ineffectively and unreasonably, even though they are notorious, you don't get much sympathy when you blatantly invite their attention. I'd like to see this parade succeed, but here's the key: when what you are doing is already illegal and is a giant pain in the ass to any cop trying to respond to another emergency, everything else better be perfect. If you can't enforce good behavior, this is what happens. As a community, we can only have an event like this if we can self-police.

7:29 PM  
Anonymous Eris said...

A statement from the organizers of Eris is forthcoming. We are a legitimate Krewe of the best and brightest that New Orleans has to offer. We will not be treated like animals when all Eris wants is to bring light, beauty, and chaos to Carnival.

We won't back down.

We don't know how.

8:03 PM  
Anonymous Dar said...

thank you for posting this. I have posted a link on my site and will send it to anyone who really wants to know WTF is going on.
Maybe this is the next front line for citizens; why not- we learned how to do it in 2005-2010...

10:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I could send a note to the IRS that I am a beautiful, talented, ultra creative mega artist of love and light, so I'm not paying tax this year. But I don't think I would get by with it, you know what I mean?

11:55 PM  
Blogger YatPundit said...

if Eris doesn't want to be treated like animals, the krewe can get a permit and have buy-in from NOPD and city hall from the get-go. This separates the krewe from the vandals. also usually limits the ass-kickings dealt out by cops stressed out from two weeks of carnival overtime.

3:38 AM  
Blogger granzombi said...

Man these stories always upset me..I am by nature always sympathetic to street art and free expression and disgusted by this kind of police behavior no matter what the provocation. But..if someone was dancing on my car or breaking things on my porch I'd be the first to be after them with a baton...it's just a sad thing that what should be a joyous evening is trashed by a bunch of overly macho cops and a very few irresponsible kids that the parade organizers didnt want to or couldnt control. The NOPD was clearly way over the top, but I've seen this so many times in so many cities, it's not unique here, it's a cop culture, if you challenge them you lose and it's much better to say yes sir and find a way to defuse the situation which you can't do if you have no organization...

8:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i was there. we are Eris. the NOPD was out for blood. we wont stop.

11:53 AM  
Anonymous Editilla~New Orleans Ladder said...

I agree with everyone above, even YatPundit, and emailed this post to Mayor Landrieu.
As you can imagine, although Mitch'mo will surely drop everything when he sees My name in his inbox, it might be a good idea for others to drop His Honor a line or two. Everyone's had an exceptional Fat Tuesday, but perhaps a strong correspondence will get the Mayor's attention more quickly than ranting off on Twitter --as I have done.

Thank you for this post, Slade. I love the way you put things.

4:24 PM  
Blogger Murphy's Law said...

A permit and law-abiding behavior.

"What do all of the other krewes have that Eris does not?"

A permit and law-abiding behavior.

"What would it take for Eris to be recognized as a legitimate neighborhood association instead of a band of punks?"

4:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I'm not going to make excuses for harsh treatment of seemingly harmless revelers, perhaps you can look at it from the NOPD perspective? Just the night before, an unauthorized second-line broke out in the east and two officers showed up to tell them they had to break it up for safety reasons. The two officers were then attacked with bricks by several of the people in the second-line.

I'm going to guess this prompted a crack-down on any unauthorized gatherings during the Mardi Gras season, and I'm going to guess the rest of NOPD figured they were not going to allow something like that to happen again. Were they perhaps a bit rough? Maybe, I don't know. I wasn't there. But one group of seemingly harmless revelers already grouped up and attacked officers because they felt they just wanted to party. Who is to say another group of drunken revelers wouldn't do the same?

5:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like some video is now on YouTube.

10:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why do the artists allow the anarchists to vandalize along the parade route? What kind of fool vandalizes their neighbor's car?...obviously the kind of fool that does that same to an NOPD squad car.

10:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"perhaps you can look at it from the NOPD perspective?"

how about not.

Everytime a cop gets so much as a scratch on them, the entire force goes into overdrive to beat and kill random people in retaliation.

Just because violence is flowing down the hierarchy doesn't mean it's legitimate.

1:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

a distinction should not be made between artists and anarchists at all. nor should anyone make an ignorant assumption that anarchists and vandalism are synonymous. there is nothing inherent in anarchism that is violent. some of the most common principles that define anarchism rest on mutual aid among human beings, the elimination of coercion & domination in all relationships and the promotion of liberated beings able to act out of free will with commitments to the collective good. if you weren't there, don't make generalizations that pave the way for repression of whole groups of self-identifying anarchists and artists. i, for one, am both. and while i may ask someone to get off another's car, to take them off a car by physical force is a much more harmful response (attacking someone's flesh & blood) than letting someone stay on a car (replaceable non-living metal). Regardless of those distinctions, none of the cars I saw being danced on were "damaged." At most, there was a slight dent on a hood.
and yes, some people in the crowd did try to stop folks from pulling garbage cans in the street (an attempt to block the cop cars which failed miserably). they did so for the safety of other paraders and small floats.

long live eris

3:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, in anarchist priorities, other people's property is of negligible value, and subordinate to any joyful, creative anarchist's desire to dance on it and spray paint tags and slogans on it. We'll just have to wait for that magical day when coercion and domination have given way to mass free will to act in the common good, because it's just a terrible, horrible thing to actually force someone to respect law and property rights.

That's a handy philosophy: it stacks the deck in favor of punks who view property not as something that someone else worked hard for, and has a right to enjoy and use as they wish, but as canvasses for the joyful and creative expression of artists and anarchists with boots and Sharpies and cans of spray paint.

After reading this blog post and comments, the interview with one of the Eris founders, and the indymedia report from one of the arrested marchers, I think it's clear that the Eris crowd actively seeks a showdown with NOPD when it parades, and cares nothing for the well-being of the neighborhoods and neighbors that get between the mob and the cops.

The cops were stupid to wade in with batons, and to not cooperate and plan across the 5th and 8th districts. They could have won the PR war immediately by being as professional as possible in controlling and dispersing Eris, arresting the vandals, and not rising to the bait when faced with cameras. The cop who's shown hitting someone with a camera deserves the full weight of discipline for that offense. As does every destructive parasite preying on New Orleans culture to defend this narcissistic, adolescent political philosophy.

6:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...nor should anyone make an ignorant assumption that anarchists and vandalism are synonymous" by previous poster.

That's ironic you say such a thing, considering that the ones making the ignorant assumption of anarchism and vandalism being synonymous were some of the paradegoers in Eris. You know, the ones who keyed, danced on, and tagged cars, for starters. NOPD was over the top and out of line, as usual (and that surprises who exactly?), but they probably wouldn't have even shown up if not for you letting the property-is-facism kooks among you (by the way, who have now defined the rest of you as being just like them rather than being artistic peaceful folk) get out of line. Saying that pulling someone off of a car is "a harmful response", much less everything else you say is psychobabbble. It sounds like Iron Rail nonsense to me. You people are as crazy as the religious zealots with megaphones. Hey Eris, Sacco and Vanzetti think you people are putzes.

9:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you made a krewe of murderers to parade you would never get caught because they never do, meanwhile do anything without a permit and they will take you down!

10:21 PM  
Blogger Eris said...

There's a legal team for the paraders that were attacked by police. I would urge anyone that saw anything to get in touch with them by emailing erissolidarity@gmail.com.

1:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8qJuQWDPKc

2:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Eris. Is that the same email address for those whose property was damaged by the paraders?

4:39 PM  

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