Thursday, March 24, 2011

Neuron Backfires

Many thanks to my friend who posted the last post for me while I was out of town. I shoulda warned him about all the cheat sheet tags I leave at the bottom of my "new post" window. He's the one who taught me how to use them anyway.

This one's not about Eris, the DOJ report on NOPD (still wading through it), or any other kind of serious topic. Every now and then there are stray thoughts that meander through a head. An article read that makes the reader say, "Huh?" A comment made by someone that sticks and bounces from neuron to neuron for a few days until it is replaced by another or gets spit out like gases through an exhaust pipe on a car. Here are a few for this week:

1. Phone calls: Earlier today someone passed me this article that discussed something I've been wondering about for a while. Now everyone knows I'm not anti-technology, not at all. I do, however, wonder if we're losing something when so much of our communication is in no context other than a screen. I can text with the best of them, but as I commented to the person who sent me the article above, the sound of laughter can't be typed/tweeted/texted and sorry, but LOL or even ROFL doesn't replace that sound. If a friend says, "Maybe I should just jump off a bridge" it sure as shootin' has a different context if they're laughing versus crying when they say it. I can't tell by looking at my screen. Years ago I ran chat rooms on AOL when it first started out. They were hosted chat rooms with a topic. The standard for training a new host was to "smile from the wrists down" as there is no context on a screen. Sarcasm can seem like cruelty scrolling across a screen with no voice or face to give it context. An article a few months ago showed by some kind of test that was done, that something like 88% of emails are misinterpreted. Why? No context. People couldn't tell if someone was being sarcastic, teasing them or being purposely vicious. If my sister says "screw you" while laughing hysterically and throwing a potato chip at me, that's an entirely different thing from "screw you" coming across a cell phone minus the potato chip. Oh yeah, and not everything can be communicated in 140 characters, abbreviations, or badly spelled text messages. But hey: "NP w txt u ltr or cu 2nite @ M's" will have to suffice in some instances I guess.

2. Dictionaries: In keeping with the above neuron backfire there's this. LOL and OMG are now, evidently, words as is the "heart" symbol. Gotta love it. Actually that one did make me laugh.

3. Nicotine: Before I left on my trip my eye caught an article somewhere on the cover of a gossip mag in the airport--a photo of some actress whose name escapes me. She was smoking an e-Cig. The caption read: "So and so has been using an e-Cig for over a year now, isn't it time she stopped?" Why? Nevermind the obvious who the hell cares aspect of this, why should she stop? If all the anti-smoking folks are so upset about the smoke and she's switched to the e-Cig for her nicotine fix, thus eliminating the smoke that gets those folks' panties all in a wad, then what's the problem? Is a nicotine addiction really all that different from a caffeine addiction? How is an e-Cig so much worse than a gallon of Starbucks with a turbo shot? I don't get it. Caffeine is standard, nicotine a moral failure? Huh?

Oh yeah, and some municipalities are now trying to ban fireplaces. Yup, fireplaces, the kind you hang your Christmas stocking on and dreamed of romantic evenings in front of. No more wood burning fires allowed. Other municipalities are trying to ban barbecues. Yup. Backyard barbecues could become a thing of the past, those glorious ribs and steaks a memory. The reasoning behind this is evidently that the burning meat's smoke is dangerous.

Next they'll tell you you're an irresponsible parent for taking your kid camping, building a campfire and letting them sit less than 1/2 a mile away, nevermind those burning marshmallows for the s'mores.

4. Toilet Paper: My grocery store is a locally owned rather peculiar place populated by silver painted people on Pegasus bicycles and piano lessons going on upstairs. During my trip I was in an actual grocery store about four times. I gotta wonder if we really need 40 different kinds of toilet paper. I wondered how much time Americans spend standing in that aisle, and others like it, trying to decide which one to buy and whether their decision is ultimately based on the cute cuddly bear family commercial they saw or the color of the packaging. The wine aisle was pretty amazing, but there at least folks are looking at categories like red vs. white, if red then what kind: a cabernet, merlot, shiraz? What country of origin, what vintage? I know for sure we're not looking for "vintage" tp so I'm really curious what makes a person buy this one over that one. And it's not just toilet paper, there are a zillion choices to be made for any number of items. I go to my store and Benny says, we're out of that, truck comes next Monday. I buy what they have.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Camera phone witness describes his experience at Eris/NOPD confrontation

Loki, founder of the joint blogger site, interviews Ritchie Katco--the camera phone wielding witness to Eris' confrontation with the Fifth District N.O.P.D.--about his experiences that night and posts the podcast to HumidCity.

Katco has posted an additional video some might not have seen of the N.O.P.D. using pepper spray indiscriminately to try to disperse the crowd.

"I saw at least three or four tazings...and several pepper sprayings more of a crowd dispersal tool than to suppress an individual...indiscriminate spraying into people's faces hoping to disperse...

"The first tazing I witnessed...seemed to be more of an effort to stop an individual from fleeing rather than to protect an officer. That's the thought that led me to begin filming.

"I did notice State Troopers on hand...I saw some lighter blue shirts that would indicate a sergeant but I didn't see any white shirts that would indicate a higher ranking officer.

"The purposes of continued filming is to document the scene. It seemed excessive and out of control in that there wasn't a lot of central leadership. It wasn't until the sergeant showed up and the State Trooper that the crowd started moving."

"I took the footage not intending to be vaulted into an advocate for civil liberties but I feel like I'm a vessel. Now everybody has a video phone in their pocket and the N.O.P.D. and police departments...are dealing with having to be immediately accountable for their actions."

another rage against violence

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Comments from Various Places re:Eris/NOPD

I have been inundated with comments on my original post, all of which I have posted. There a great number of well articulated and diverse opinions in the comment section of that post that I urge you to read.

There have also been some standouts and some found elsewhere that I think need to be considered. All have been posted here in their entirety.

First from this blog's original post:

Posted Anonymously:
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.

From a article, posted by allferalcats backs up what was reported to me minutes after the altercation:
in fact many of us that organize and participate in this event are new orleans natives, young homeowners, business owners, and avid advocates for quality of life in our neighborhoods. krewe of eris is intended as a positive and accessible convergence. many of us are upset by the careless acts of just a few of the participants in the parade that may have been the cause of citizen complaints that triggered police reaction. there is nothing radical or interesting about middle class white people damaging other middle class white peoples' property, and in this case only served to endanger a joyful and benign group of paraders.
standing in the heart of this parade as the police tore through the crowd i saw people arrested at random, instruments intentionally smashed, hateful unprofessionalism and violence from the police. people were scared, crying, running. with a taser pointed in my face i said " no one is attacking you, please calm down" and was told " son if you beat that drum again im going to beat the fu** out of you."
any disgruntled young white person that at that time tried to turn this into some sort of showdown endangered everyone there. Their own privilege and ignorance to the reality of police brutality afforded them such carelessness. if violence and property damage holds a place in the pursuit of radical change in our society, this was not it. indeed there are young people that visit our city that behave in ways that are detrimental to the quality of life we as a city are battling for. most of us who had anything to do with the staging of this parade couldnt see a thing, as we were playing music and carrying homemade floats as the crowd swelled around us.
and yet the sweeping condemnation, stigmatization, stereotyping, and lack of empathy for people affected by violence that some people in this community are displaying is disheartening. i can only imagine the hatred you seed in your heart for people that resemble you less, be they queer, of color, or in poverty.
blind follower of the state, search yourself.

Then earlier today, this video was sent to me in the original post's comments section. It also backs up the original post's reportage of "I want to see your backs, no faces." The kid my husband saw turning toward the police with a guitar case and his arms out can be seen at the very end of the second clip briefly. My husband said that was the kid who was immediately beat down after doing that. Unfortunately the video doesn't show that part, but thanks to whoever sent me this:

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Another First Hand Account of Eris/NOPD Encounter

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.

I am posting this in its entirety along with the link. I think it is important.

Although I have comment moderation on this blog, I have posted every single comment that has come in on the original post of my husband's and my encounter that night. I saw lots of cameras out there that night and so far the only video/photos I've seen are this one, which surprises me although I have a feeling that now that Mardi Gras is over, more will be uploaded to both YouTube and Flickr. I'll be checking for them.

Found on YouTube thanks to a commenter.

The following was originally posted here at indymedia. I think it's important enough to post the entire text:

Arrested at the Eris Parade
by Anonymous by request Wednesday, Mar. 09, 2011 at 10:00 AM

This is my personal account of parading in Eris 2011 and the crazy arrests that followed. I hope you can use this or print it somehow.... please feel free to post it anywhere and everywhere.

This is my personal account of parading in Eris 2011 and the crazy arrests that followed. I hope you can use this or print it somehow.... please feel free to post it anywhere and everywhere. I want to remain anonymous because I fear reprisal, based on the threats the Fifth District officers made over the course of the evening and from witnessing their insane misbehavior with my own eyes. Personally I have lost all faith in our police department. It is increasingly clear that the NOPD problem isn't "bad apples" but an institutional evil reaching far deeper, and now I have experienced it firsthand. So, I am frightened, but my outrage has moved me to write, to make the truth known. I was a peaceful parader, as were (I believe) almost if not all of the others arrested on Sunday night, many of whom I can vouch for personally. Mark my words, New Orleanians... if this can happen to me, it can happen to any of you.


The mood in the 5th District station house was grim. Not only the line of twelve cuffed prisoners kneeling on the floor of the hallway-- we were grim alright-- but the police themselves were somber and uneasy. The mood was subdued, punctuated with explosions of anger from the still adrenalized officers who'd been at the scene of the Fifth District's bulldozing of Eris.

"Y'all fucked up," ranted a fat officer, pacing up and down the back hall where we arrestees knelt. It was hour two of what would be over four hours kneeling cuffed side-by-side on the Fifth District's linoleum before transfer to Sheriff's custody. "Y'all done fucked up now. I hope I see the motherfucker who hit me. I'm gonna find him. I'm gonna see that motherfucker on the street, and I'm gonna whip the shit out of him. You DO know that. When I see that motherfucker I'm gonna fuck him up bad, and I hope he's one of y'all's motherfucking cousins. I should'a shot that motherucker! You heard me?"

The station Sergeant was angry too, but he wasn't venting at the arrestees. He was angry at the French Quarter's 8th District police force. "I can't believe they got on the radio talking all that shit," he said, his voice getting louder as he spoke. "What the fuck was that? Getting on the radio and telling us there was a riot heading our way. Like it's a joke to them. 'Oh yeah, we got this big crowd throwing trash cans and rioting, so look out. We've got them heading right your way.' That is severely fucked up."

A junior officer grunted in acknowledgement. Several pairs of handcuffs were unaccounted for, and he was trying to sort out whose handcuffs were whose. The police couldn't agree who'd arrested which of us.

"If they really had a riot on their hands," the Sergeant continued, "the only thing they should'a been saying on the radio was 'send units.' They should've taken care of it their damn selves. And instead they send it to us! Well, we handled it for them alright. The Fifth District takes care of a riot. We cleaned up their shit for them." He laughed bitterly. "And now we get to ride this horse allll the way home."


The Krewe of Eris' 2011 parade had not been a riot by any stretch of the definition. It had been a parade. It had been a jubilant and unruly parade, as it has been every year since it began, but also like every year it had been a positive, joyful, and creative parade, not a protest, an angry march, or anything remotely violent. The elaborate, lovingly handmade floats and costumes we had spent days and in some cases weeks on were made for celebration. This year's theme had been "Mutagenesis," partly in response to the BP oil disaster, and was meant to explore how new birth and change could arise from toxic horror. Prevalent in the parade were sea creatures and shorebirds, some adapted by their creators from earlier use in the Krewe of Dead Pelicans, Halloween and other parades and events reflecting the New Orleans spirit of responding to hardship by redoubling creative and constructive energy.

The parade had been without incident for the first several blocks, wending through the Marigny and Bywater neighborhoods. People seemed happy to see us as they always are. As we passed below one building, a resident threw out handful after handful of letter-pressed Carnival bookmarks to us from a high window, swirling like giant confetti. They said "Carnival 2011 -- This is Heaven."

After crossing Elysian to Frenchmen St., the parade gained a tail, an Eighth District police car that followed some yards behind the parade with its lights on but no siren. I was a participant in the parade, and I figured this police escort to be two things, neither of them alarming or unreasonable. One, it was keeping tabs on where the parade was heading, which struck me as proactive and (from a police point of view) understandable. Two, its blue-light presence at the back of the parade served as a warning to civilian vehicle traffic that the road ahead was not passable. When the parade paused for twenty minutes or so at the intersection of Frenchmen and Burgundy, the car paused with us.

At some point during this pause, one parade participant did something to attract the attention of the officers inside the car-- I didn't see this, so I don't know what it was-- and he was arrested without incident.

The parade then moved forward, finally, following a course that took it into the French Quarter. We didn't get far; it was clear the Eighth District didn't want us there. Some neighborhoods are okay to parade in, and some, apparently, are not. The response to Eris entering the Quarter was swift and markedly more aggressive. A helicopter swept us with its spotlight-- wait, does NOPD have a helicopter now? There was definitely one present. Police cars blocked off two sides of every intersection, directing the parade into two right turns: up one block and then directly back out towards Esplanade. All the cars at the intersections had their sirens going at ear-splitting volumes, as did the now-multiple cars behind us, which accelerated and roared their engines. Many paraders broke into a trot and then an unnerved run. Some crowded onto the sidewalks.

The sirens drowned out the marching band and made verbal communication impossible, even at a shout. As the tail cars nipped at the parade's heels, some younger paradegoers began dragging the gigantic French Quarter residential trash bins out into the streets to slow the police behind us down. Just as promptly, other paradegoers put the cans upright and dragged the cans back to where they'd been. Still scrambling to stay ahead of the police cars, the trash draggers and trash replacers angrily chided each other. Of course, it was impossible to hear what anyone was saying over the sirens, leaving this an argument conducted in pantomime. This lack of a unified response is perhaps not shocking in a parade named for the Goddess of discord.

The cop cars and their super-sirens kept on us all the way to the dividing line between the Fifth & Eighth districts, where they vanished. Many paradegoers had dropped out, but the couple hundred people still left cheered, as if being shunted around by effective crowd control was a victory. "Whose streets? Our streets!" chanted some as they fled back across Elysian.

It had not been a particularly fun visit to "Da Quarters," and my partner and I discussed heading home, but we figured we'd stick it out, since there were only a few blocks left before the parade was officially over anyway.

A little way up Chartres St. a police car approached the front of the parade, driving the wrong way on the one-way street. Occupying the center of the road, it drove straight forward into the front of the parade until the parade flowed around it on all sides, and then it stopped. The siren came on, then turned off, and the parade continued past the parked police car while the officer inside it glowered silently. This was bizarre, but also much more like the buffoonery I expect from our boys in blue, and for that reason was almost comforting.

At Chartres and Franklin, there was a melee.


At Chartres and Franklin, cars swarmed into the body of the parade. They tried to block the parade on all sides, and the parade ballooned in the middle as the cheerfully oblivious marchers in the back marched forward into those discovering the obstruction. There weren't sirens, but there were a lot of flashing lights, and the officers were shouting profanities as they laid into a confused and frightened crowd. Why had this ambush happened? Where had this come from? What the fuck was going on?

One man was grabbed and thrown against a car. "He cut my tires!" an officer was shouting. "I saw you pull that knife out your own pocket!" someone else shouted back. Two female officers began deploying giant waves of pepper spray as they backed away from the crowd, the spray arcing up and drizzling like fog over the parade as well as the officers in the center of it.

Officers were lashing out with batons and tazers, chasing down those who ran. Eris, like most things that are great about Mardi Gras, is a family affair, and there had been parents present with their children of all ages. If there had ever been an official demand we disperse, nobody I've spoken to heard it.

The escalation was instantaneous, ongoing and exponential. Police were flinging people around, and onlookers' cameras were smashed. A tazer boomed-- it sounded like a gunshot-- and began crackling. Then another. Then another. People were screaming in fear and running in all directions. As the officers pursued and tackled the scattering parade-goers, a few angered paraders circled back to the now-abandoned cruisers, opening the cars' unsecured rear doors to let out those who'd been confined. Further down Chartres, arrestees struggled free or were yanked free by groups of their friends as the situation spiralled further out of control. A man ran down the street in handcuffs.

"Lost my taser!" one officer panted, running past the car inside which your humble correspondent was quietly cuffed. "The fuck's my goddamn taser?"

"Someone got my baton!" shouted another.

More cars roared into the intersection and fresh officers jumped out, tense with anticipation and excitement. They ran out into the darkness with their batons extended in their hands. Officers who'd suffered the effects of pepper spray were staggering like drunks back towards the blue-lit ring of cop cars, shouting and cursing while holding their faces and rubbing their eyes.

One girl was grabbed and arrested for taking photographs. Several brass band members had their instruments taken from them and deliberately broken. Twelve paradegoers that I know of went to jail and a whole lot more went to hospital.


We arrestees were in the fifth district station for what seemed like an eternity, but was actually just over four hours. We could hear the police in the offices arguing loudly about the reports. A senior officer was scolding them and emphasizing how important it was that the reports agree with one another.

In the back hallway where we kneeled, different police came and went, some shouting at us, some ignoring us, some giving us brief paternal lectures on our misconduct. Some threatened us, and some were relatively friendly. None of the cops seemed happy, and there was a clear sense that things had not gone well. "All this shit happened because one of you childish fuck-ups started drawing penises on cars," an officer told us. "You know that? We don't care if you parade, but we got a call saying someone was drawing penises on cars. That's the cause of this whole situation. How you feel about that? You proud of drawing penises on cars? You some grade-schoolers?" The next day when I got out of jail, the friend who gave me a ride home had a penis painted on the side of her car. She, a parader herself, had apparently been among the victims. The penis washed off with soap and a sponge.

Back in the station-house, one of the arrested paradegoers had been tazed so long and hard that he had urinated on himself. "Y'all motherfuckers stink," a Fifth District sergeant said. He was not one of the relatively friendly ones. "Y'all make me sick. It's disgusting. You oughta be ashamed of yourselves, stinking like you do." He left the room and returned with a big can of room deoderizer in each hand. "Y'all some foul motherfuckers," he said, walking up and down the line and spraying the tops of our bowed heads with the intensely scented aerosols. Tightly cuffed, we cringed away as best we could. "Y'all some filthy motherfuckers."

The ordeal was a mix of menace and unintentional burlesque. Addressing one of the brass band members who'd been arrested-- their large instruments had made them slow to escape, leading to a disproportionate number being detained-- an officer told him, "I saw you slash them tires. Oh yes. I saw you. Think you cute, using your mouthpiece on them tires. Well we got your mouthpiece, there's DNA all over it." In spite of this compelling physical and scientific evidence, that particular musician has yet to be charged with slashing anyone's tires.

Later, the same officer came back into the hallway waving a gleaming clean pair of safety scissors. "This it right here," he said triumphantly. "This here is what you used on them tires." He waited to see if anyone would react. "Yep," he said, "you in trouble now." He went back into the office.

At one point an officer who wasn't in uniform came and looked at us silently for a while without speaking. When he did speak, his voice was quiet. "This is a job to me," he said, making eye contact with each of us. "Okay? I want you to know that. This here is just my job. I come here, I do my job, I pray god I go back to my family at day's end. That's all. Arresting anyone don't get my dick hard. I want you to know, it don't do nothing for me. I am just here to do this job." He stared at us longer, seemed about to say more, and then left.

One arrestee had a broken cheekbone and a large, matted bloody wound on the back of his head from being beaten with a police baton. Later, this injury would require surgical staples. On the wall where we were kneeling, there was a growing bloodstain behind his head where his injury had bled onto the drywall. "He's bleeding," said another of the arrestees. "Officer, that man needs medical attention."

"I say you could speak? Shut the fuck up," the officer currently watching us replied. A couple of the arrestees had earlier been demanding lawyers, and he had told them to shut the fuck up too. He was big on that phrase. Earlier, he'd told yet another arrestee, "I'm a trump your charges to the sky if you don't shut the fuck up."

An officer walked in cradling his hand and smiling. "You need hospital?" The silence-oriented officer asked him.

"Yeah, I'm going in a minute," said the officer with the wounded hand. "I knocked motherfuckers tonight, tell you what."

"That hand definitely look sprained," said the shushy officer. "Please tell me you tagged one of these assholes."

"Nah, none of these here," the officer said, looking us over. "I don't think it was none of these. But whoever the fuck it was, he damn sure know it." He poked his knuckles tenderly. "I'm a be out on this one for a while," he said, and grinned. "Might have to stay home Mardi Gras."


When we finally got transported to OPP, we sat for a while on an outdoors bench with all the other unfortunates who'd been arrested that night, many of whom still had Mardi Gras beads on. One of the boys from the Fifth District station house, a scrawny white officer from Indiana, waited with us until we could be processed into jail.

"I'll tell you now, they're gonna take your shoes," the scrawny officer warned us. "I mean, they're bad in there. They're like savages in there, and I guarantee you guys won't go before a judge before Thursday at the soonest. Courts are closed for holiday. You'll be in there a week with those animals. Really, you guys will be lucky if getting your shoes taken is the worst thing that happens. You know what I mean? I pity you. It's bad in there. I wouldn't want to be in there."

None of lost our shoes. Except for the pitiable cases who were visibly mentally ill, the other people incarcerated at OPP and the House of Detention were on the whole quite good-natured. Our fellow inmates found it hilarious that we were covered in sparkly makeup and had been arrested while parading. "You ain't shot nobody? You just paradin' with a band? Ain't that some shit!" The fact a number of us had been playing in the brass band went a ways with the inmates as well. "Man, the fuck they always arresting horn players for?"

There was a certain amount of teasing about our bizarre and scanty outfits, but unlike our experience with the paid professionals of NOPD, the inmates didn't threaten us or bully us. There was only either camraderie or indifference.

Only a couple of us had ever been arrested before, and OPP was new to all of us. These more experienced inmates explained to us newbies how the byzantine processing system worked. They showed us how to operate the janky telephones, warned us which guards were mean, and when the food cart came around they made sure we "parade folk" got sandwiches. Don't get me wrong, OPP and HOD are miserable to be in, but after the Fifth District, the Sheriff's department staff were quite frankly a fucking relief.

When we went before a judge the next day to get our bail set, he remarked on the unprofessionalism and sloppiness of the police reports, noting that they lacked any detail and didn't address who did what. That is, the random assortment of charges we'd each been given weren't linked to specifics in the police reports, which were almost all just exact duplicates of each other, characterizing the parade in general terms as a violent and dangerous riot.

The last word should perhaps go to the Sheriff's officer whose job it was to process us into the jail. His cubicle, at the end of the long outdoor bench, was the point where the NOPD handed us off to the custody and responsibility of the Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff's Office. When the arrestee with the broken cheekbone and the matted, bloody head was brought in, the Sheriff's officer in the processing cubicle shouted so loudly he could be heard on both sides of the doors.

"Oh, fuck you! What the fuck is this shit?" the Sheriff's officer exploded. "You trying to slide him in here, busted up like that? Oh HELL NO. This man is going to the goddamn hospital!"

The Fifth District officer responded inaudibly.

"The fuck you are," the sheriff's officer said, still loud. "We are not taking this. No way. He's going straight to the hospital. No way you're passing your fuckup off on us."

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.