Thursday, March 10, 2011

ART IS NOT A CRIME: Aftermath

A costume sale is shut down. A parade meets with both internal vandalism a violent shut down. A book store & bicycle co-op are closed. All within a two week period and all in the same neighborhood. But it's really not that simple. The Blue Nile Bust, as it's come to be called, was unfortunate at best, an act of legal nit-picking that blew all out of proportion. It's true that they were operating without the correct permits, but the initial visit by the department of revenue asked them only to move indoors, and cited them for their lack of paperwork. According to a press release by Ronal Serpas, "The sale was asked to be moved inside at that time." He said that no other action was taken. The ensuing visit by two NOPD officers was what shut it down, according to Tracey Thompson, artist in attendance & founder of Dirty Linen night, as well as Cree McCree, founder of this annual 'flea market'. Cree McCree writes:
"Chief Serpas is wrong. We were initially
told to move vendors off the sidewalk by
two female agents (who I later learned
were from the revenue department).
We had started to do that when a male
NOPD officer, in full blue mufti, said
we would have to clear the premises and
shut the entire sale down. He warned us
they would come back to check if we've
complied with that order.
Needless to day, we did.

We have several witnesses to this
action, including Jesse Paige himself.
Had we merely been asked to clear the
sidewalk, I would certainly have
continued the sale inside.
We we totally shut down."
 
 It was after this point that an absurd maze of
paperwork and outrageous permit fees began
to surface, leading City Hall to appoint a specific
office to deal with it. Progress seemed imminent.

Then there was The Parade.

Much has already been supposed and rumored,
but this much we know:
Persons with or around the paraders got out of line.
They tagged and walked on parked cars.
They became unruly, and police report having objects
thrown at them, tires slashed, and a lot it could have
been avoided, perhaps, had Eris not chosen to parade,
both unlicensed, & unpoliced by their own members.

I find this saddening beyond measure, that an
influence of destruction and disregard for the property
of others, joined the line. Some of those who had
property destroyed or damaged are also of working
class means & creative life styles. Apparently,
there are those who think that 'sticking it to the
man' or whatever stupidity launched these actions,
was best done by destroying the hard earned property
of their neighbors.

But it got worse.
Much worse.
The response of the 5th District to this event was
epic in it's failure.
My opinion of the 5th District's thug like bullying
behavior is no secret. To read of witnesses accounts
of two female officers blindly spraying pepper spray
in to a crowd of unarmed citizens, including very
young children, smacks more of Iran than it does
of the USA.

But then, since the Federal Flood, we've gotten
used to being treated like a third world nation.

Still, this report of what happened, post arrest,
is chilling, with a bleeding head wound going untreated
for 4 hours these guys are forced to kneel,
handcuffed, in a hallway, as ones blood seeps into
the drywall he leans on, officers spraying chemicals
on the arrested, swearing at them, indiscriminately
using the name 'motherfucker' for each & every one
of them, even threatening them with off duty reprisals.

Read it here.

There is even video of an NOPD officer slapping the
cell phone from the hand of a bystander in clear
violation of his civil rights. You can hear the
comments of Marjorie Esman of the ACLU,
as well as see the video, here.

Further video shows NOPD officers walking
down the street in larger numbers, pepper
spray at arms length, threatening any who look at them.

Comments from an ex-NOPD officer, albeit anonymously
written, ring true as well.

Then today, The Iron Rail Book Store & Plan B Bicycle
Project, both at 511 Marigny St. were closed, also due to
lack of permits. I'm told that the many artists who lived in
their studio spaces there, were also evicted.

Many are crying retaliation by the NOPD, for the
investigation opened in to the parade debacle.
The superintendent there at 511, known as The Ark,
told me personally that this permit inspection arose
from complaints by neighbors who had their vehicles
vandalized during the Eris Parade, and said complaints
went through the 'office of a city council member'.
I find it an outstanding act of cowardice that
this 'member' has not come forward to set the record
straight.

There is a point to all of this, if you just read on
a little more...

Our new Police Chief is obsessed with details of
law & order, often ignoring, in my opinion, the real
crime we face daily. There are traffic stops, vehicle checks,
and permit investigations. I, myself, have seen a traffic
stop where the NOPD handcuffed & searched a pair of
men who kept asking "What are you doing" &
"Am I under arrest?" while the cops (also 5th District)
told them "This is for your own safety", completing their
illegal search of 30 minutes before finally letting the
men go. When one of them asked, "What was all that about?"
I clearly heard the response: "Get going or go to jail."

When recent events are analyzed by the court system
here, the old adage "who are you going to believe, me
or the cops?" will rear it's head again.

So lets get it straight; If you're a self proclaimed
'anarchist bookstore', don't try operating without
permits & a license.

If you're going parading, get a permit, or, if not,
make sure that drunken vandals aren't on your
tail, smashing up your neighbors cars. Your 'right
to free assembly' I've been hearing so much about
since that night, doesn't exempt my right to not
have the roof of my car caved in or my paint job
destroyed.

I know that' may not be what some of the
20 - 30 somethings involved with this want
to hear, but maybe they're missing a
bigger picture...

I, too, came back after the flood, with a shattered
hip and little hope.
I, too, rebuilt and got busy helping my neighbors,
even on crutches, while the City kept me in lock
down with a ridiculous curfew that allowed the
other side of Elysian Fields to roam at large until
2 am, while I found myself at gun point, for simply
standing, on crutches, on my door step at
7:30 at night.

But this is not about a parade.
Nor is it about bookstores or flea markets.

It's about a categorically aimed attempt to retake
this part of the city.
We came here, the artists, crafts people, the service
industry minions, back in the 90's when the Quarter
became too expensive.

Nobody wanted to live here, it was desolate, whites
were hardly welcomed, armed robbery & shootings
were even more prevalent.
It was, in short, Deadwood.

Still we built lives, shared dreams and slowly created
something beautiful in an ugly landscape. After the
flood, we returned and began again.
Magazines write us up, calling the Marigny one of
the Top Ten Neighborhoods in the Country, and
the Times Picayune calls the Marigny/Bywater/St Roch
area 'The New Bohemia.'

Now that these ramshackle houses are beautified,
the neighborhoods safer, people walk with strollers
rather than fearful glances, houses are going for
300 grand, instead of fifty.

And They want it back.

Just like Deadwood, the Richer, Whiter,
Mainstreamier folks want to take your
neighborhood for themselves.
And by these irresponsible acts,
we're giving it to them.

They will invent new rules, new permits, new laws,
breaking the old ones, like search & seizure laws
& probable cause, trying to tax or hinder you from
staying, unless you can afford to become one
of them.

Sean Cummings, who for a time directed the river
front development, has gone so far as to buy up
buildings here (a clear ethics violation) and
openly solicit artists from New York, to 'show
us how it's done,' even though our own art scene
has attracted the Andy Warhol Society, and
spawned the now world famous New Orleans
Fringe Festival.

Again;
by acting out against these minor laws, you are
giving them what they want.

Each petty permit violation adds to the public
opinion that WE CAN'T HANDLE OURSELVES.

Any store needs a business license & an occupancy
permit. Thinking otherwise is like thinking you can
run that lemon-aide stand for the rest of your life,
without conflict or repercussion.
It's simply not going to happen.

Every other bookstore has to have one.
Every parade needs a permit.
Every vendor needs a tax ID number.
It's like that in every city in America.
This is a fight both unwinable & childish.

This isn't some 70's Billy Jack movie, where the hero,
an unsung loner, thwarts Boss Hogg, gets the girl,
and rides into the sun set.

This is a move to shut down your lifestyle completely.

The real issue here to focus on is the same issue being
used against you.
Make them answerable to the very letter of the law.
Make THEM answer for unreasonable behavior.
While any credibility is still ours.

Every member of the NOPD MUST file a report
after using a taser, each time they use it.
It MUST have a resisting arrest report.
Make them present it.

Assaulting a citizen for using a camera phone is a
crime.
Make them arrest the officer who did it.

It's also a violation of your civil rights.
Call the FBI immediately.
Sue the NOPD for violating your civil rights.
The ACLU may even provide you with legal counsel.

Your City Council Member is NOT responding as she
said she would?
Petition her office with phone calls, letters & emails and
document them to the press.

Do NOT allow yourself to be searched illegally.
Do NOT allow yourself to be treated like an animal by
the NOPD, but have witnesses document the occasion,
on film or video if possible.

We CAN fight City Hall, but only as far as we are willing
to step up to the game. And as far as I can see, we have
every reason to, and every tool we need at our disposal.

But it will not happen with rumor, street theater,
sheer defiance and other techniques best left in the
late night barroom where they were born.

We must act as a unified, literal front, prepared to stand
our ground legally. One cannot challenge the ethics of
another from a stand point of chaos.
This way lies only more chaos.

Remember this;
You are New Orleans, too.
This is also YOUR city.
Respect it.
Love it.
Own it.

Stand up in the light of day and speak directly;
While I am not above the law, neither are you.
We are not your children or cattle, but your equals.

ART IS NOT A CRIME.

Without it's artists, musicians, writers & performers
New Orleans will become bereft of culture.
And that 'culture' brings in about 7.5 million tourists &
about 5 billion dollars every single year.

STAND UP FOR YOUR RIGHTS.


Lord David
Skull Club
New Orleans

21 comments:

Sam said...

BRAVO! BRAVO! Wonderful, lucid, and spot on. LD, ya know I love ya!

Lord David said...

Viva Le Revolution!

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Well said.

And regarding Cummings, I know you and I had our disagreements about that some time ago on Humid City.

After all this? I submit for the record that I stand corrected. You were and are exactly right.

Lord David said...

Ya know what, Cousin Pat?
I love a good debate, and have remembered you since then.

For the record, regarding Cummings? I wish I'd been as wrong as wearing grandma's skivvies.
But, when you smell a rat, it's generally a rat. A dirty, lying, cheating, fucking rat.

Keep thinking out loud, sir.
If we are not questioned by others, we cease to question ourselves.

best;
LD

Anonymous said...

These blogs are very important. I only hope the right people are reading it. Please keep up the good work. Our (remaining) culture depends on it.

Tanner

mardiclaw said...

I'd like to add that by keeping the crime up, it keeps the cost of houses low... look around. look who's buying, and remember... stand up.

Giuliana said...

I couldn't have said it better if I tried. You are so very correct David.

The only way we can fight these people is legally, using the very letter of the laws which they are attempting to use to destroy us.

If we ALL conduct ourselves like intelligent, law abiding citizens, then we will be above reproach,and they cannot touch us.

But if we continue to thumb our nose to the law of the land, and behave like we are above the law, the law can and will take away everything we've worked for. Don't let this happen, please. To beat these people at their game we need to learn it, embrace it, and play better, and nicer than they do. Get it?

molly doll said...

i didn't believe it all until i've seen it with my own eyes. thanks for doing this. someone has to.

Marigny said...

You nailed it! Brilliant!

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

Because of the nature of this conversation, and some other discussions I'm having on Facebook, I'll just leave this here:

Code of Ordinaces, City of New Orleans, Louisiana

Current as of January, 2011.

beau said...

I love living in the Marigny, with it's edgy, bohemian feel. Even if I could afford to, I would not live in the Disney Quarter. I am frightened, not only by the fifth district goon squads, but by the quieter, more sinister threat to our neighborhood. Gentrification. I wonder how long it will be until those of us who live on the socialogical fringes (and do pay taxes, etc.)are forced out by the greedheads and their allies at City Hall.

Adrastos said...

Best thing I've read about this mess. Well done, David.

Lord David said...

Thanks, Cousin Pat.

Section 4-501, line 8 jumps off the page, for me, anyway:

"Maintain peace; protect life, property, and all other rights and liberties of the people; and do and perform all other lawfully assigned acts."

Maybe some remedial study of police procedures are in order.

Cousin Pat from Georgia said...

I heard the quality of life folks are coming after neighborhood residents who put posters and fliers on telephone poles and stuff in violation of Section 66 (litter).

I'd say it is time for someone to staple up a bunch of fliers with quotes from Section 4 - 501.

mr. Sisi said...

Would be nice, but often times permits aren't possible to get or are far to expensive. The ability to get away with doing creative things without explaining them to burocrats who want far more money that I will ever have, is the reason i moved here.

Just out of curiosity, I'm not being combative, does the Skull Club have a liquer license?

Lord David said...

Ah, Mr. Sisi....

I feel ya.
And I stand with you on this.

Perhaps it is the public display that attracts so much trouble, which is why I am usually The Mad Hermit of Spain Street. One who dances to long & too loud, often winds up doing it with the Devil in the Pale Moon Light, if you catch my drift.

As for the Skull Club, it is a solely private place, my living room, in fact, and what happens there is only the business of those there at the time. I would gladly direct further inquiries to my attorney, especially if you have a visible warrant, but he's ducking my calls. I think he still owes me money.

If you're interested in visiting me at Skull Club, email me at the address on the web site. We'll chat. Maybe even have a drink.

Cheers;
LD

termite said...

i'm still your biggest fan.

there.

i

said

it.

awesome post. as always.

xo

Anonymous said...

So if the Iron Rail reopened in somebodies house and only opened once a month, then it would be ok for them to sell books without a permit?

Lord David said...

Permit questions are best answered by:

Scott Hutcheson - Advisor to the Mayor for Cultural Economy
City of New Orleans
504-658-4258--Office
504-606-4835--Cell
or by emailing:
cshutcheson@nola.gov

To my understanding, any event open to the general PUBLIC requires a Special Event Permit.
ALL vendors require their own permit, as does any business (basic is about $50 a year).

Special Tax Forms are also available to streamline sales tax remittance, which I understand was
a problem with Iron Rail.

The Tax Man is relentless, everywhere.

If Scott can't help you, I'd suggest starting here:

http://www.nola.gov/en/BUSINESSES/Bureau-of-Revenue/Document-Resource-Center/Document-Resource-Center

Best wishes & best of luck to Iron Rail on their resurrection.

They are (not 'were' yet)a much appreciated component of the Marigny/Bywater/St Roch area.

Lord David said...

CORRECTION: The Frenchmen St Costume Sale was actually founded by Tracy Thompson (also founder of Dirty Linen Night), I'm told, who started the costume boutique 20 years ago, ran it for a number of years (10?) before passing the torch on to Cree McCree.

Anonymous said...

On the nose! Thank you for having the guts to say this.