Friday, September 30, 2011

What It Takes

More powerful than any government, violent, or financial control, is the ability to experience mercy & compassion, for it elevates all involved. Without mercy & compassion, we are as but wild dogs, fighting even our own, for scraps too small to sustain any of us.

- LD  Fall, 2011

Monday, September 26, 2011

Eris Parade Video

Please take a couple of minutes and watch this video of the NOPD at the Eris Parade. Also, watch the squares that appear on the screen during pauses, and roll your mouse over them. Descriptions of what's happening, like "Macing Photographer" will appear in those squares.

Please also note that the photographer getting maced is well off the sidewalk, behind a car, and not a threat to anyone. The cop simply doesn't want him to film this violent exchange, although its well within his right to do so.
Then there is the young man the cops hold & mace, before releasing him. He has posed no threat nor is he being arrested. They just maced him.

If that's not enough, watch as several NOPD officers spray clouds of mace towards a group of young women, who are doing nothing wrong, whatsoever.

Finally, the bully of all bullies, an NOPD officer walks down the street threatening to mace any & all who look at him, a clear violation of the human & civil rights of every person there.


Why are the Eris 12 getting jail time, when there is evidence to prove their innocence, as these cops walk away from brutality charges, backed up by video?

Why is nothing being done about it?
Why aren't we bringing this to the attention of the press?

Spread the word.
Free the Eris 12.
Hold NOPD accountable.

Eris Parader Gets Prison Time; In spite of evidence to the contrary, Judge finds parader guilty on all counts.

In the State of Georgia, a black death row prisoner is executed, even though evidence against him is highly questionable, yet in 2008, the same state commuted the death sentence of a white death row inmate, even though he confessed to committing the crime.

On the streets of New York City, thousands have gathered to protest, not only the sheer  rampant greed of those who juggle our nations monies, but their attempts to have any criminal prosecution for this removed from the realm of possibility.

While these stories are, and should be, National News (except the main stream news is a complete sell out to Wall Street, keeping pathetically silent), there is a battle in the same Culture War raging on the streets of New Orleans.

In February of 2011, an unpermitted parade, which had attracted a vandalous element, was stopped and summarily attacked by the NOPD.
 While an investigation was promised, none was ever performed, short of ridiculous & meaningless 'investigation' of their commanding officer, Bernedine Kelly, as though she were to bear the responsibility of her entire district, by being it's commander.
Since she wasn't even there, she was cleared, and no other measures have since been taken, an obvious cover-up by the 5th District, if not the entire NOPD.

Furthermore, the 12 Eris arrestees were still held on fabricated charges, even after their mistreatment at the hands of these rogue cops.

William R Watkin, known as 'Willie' was visiting form Missouri, and took part in this parade, dressed as Peter Pan. He walked near the front, and was, as many were, unaware of the trouble following the parade. He was not an organizer or a trouble maker. He was arrested for looking at the cops when they commanded everyone to look away, a completely unconstitutional order.

Even after video evidence was presented, proving it impossible for him to have committed any of the acts he was charged with, he was found guilty and sentenced to 45 days in prison.
 While this is not a death sentence, imagine yourself going to prison for a month & a half, simply because you looked at a cop.

What follows is the complete email from another of the Eris Paraders falsely accused & charged, in it's unedited entirety. His name has been omitted by request, as his own court date looms.

Make no mistake; power, money & position have declared war on poverty, hard work & freedom of expression. Your rights are already being stripped, and at an alarming rate.Whether it's a permit raid on a home art gallery, an arrest for handing out fliers, or the stopping of bicycles to check for 'licenses' the City no longer issues or has the means to store, we are under attack.STAND UP FOR YOUR RIGHTS.

And please, after reading this, consider writing to Willie.
45 days in hell is a long time, people.
Remember, people mysteriously die in OPP.

The Email:

Only a few of us heard, mostly by chance and at the last moment, that one of the 12 Eris arrestees had his trial last Friday. We showed up and watched his lawyer try the case in fine style. The charges against Willy were ludicrous, and fortunately there was clear video evidence showing Willy's arrest-- showing that at no time was he anywhere near the officer whom he's alleged to have shoved, which single fabricated shoving originated all 3 of his charges.

So the lawyer presented the case well, and then NOPD took the stand and contradicted themselves and each other and their own written reports, and the video showed it all unambiguously, and the lawyers summed everything up in their closing arguments.

But none of it mattered, because Willy got a really bad judge. The judge rolled her eyes and looked away in boredom-- closed her eyes, even, during the presentation of evidence. She sneered at Willy, berated his lawyers, and huffed in impatient adolescent exasperation at each motion or objection from the defense. As soon as protocol permitted, she declared Willy summarily guilty on all three counts.

The lawyers pleaded for clemency in sentencing, citing Willy's clean record, and she shouted at them some more and bared her teeth like a cornered possum and gave Willy 45 days in the House of Detention for his three bullshit misdemeanors. He was cuffed right where he sat, his lawyer was given the chance to take off Willy's bowtie and empty Willy's pockets, and then we were all kicked out the courtroom, just because, and Willy went in shackles down the back stairway to the prison bus with all the other poor orange-jumpsuited bastards who had the misfortune to be in Judge Robin Pittman's courtroom that day.

I know we all know the system is fucked, it's unfair, etc., but I really do need to specially mention that Robin Pittman is vile and literally, medically, provably insane. She is not just a "mean judge," she is a mean judge who is off her rocker. Her jaw-dropping displays of viciousness, paranoia and immaturity, her talking on her cell phone and reading her bible during trials, her ugly, unprovoked and unprofessional insults towards the defense (not just Willy's, everyone's) and above all her histrionic savagery towards the human wreckage dragged before her in chains daily make Pittman not merely a bad judge, but a sad, bad, mad judge, the most pathetic and repugnant specimen among the whole twisted pantheon...  the unhinged and monstrous Queen of Hearts holding forth in her bizarre, Kafka-like crawlspace courtroom, a "blind and aimless Fury" ruling the rafters of our criminal courthouse's nightmarish Wonderland.

So that's Pittman, and that's why Willy is in prison right now.  I can't speak for Willy, but I would rather do 45 days in prison than have to spend a single day inside Judge Pittman's head. Being her is a terrible punishment, and it's HD video crystal-clear how deeply unhappy she is. She is not the smug patrician haughtily handing out hell, she is the deranged sufferer, the clawing ravening sufferer who is frenziedly punishing the rest of the world with every drop of power she's permitted. I don't believe in karma, but I do believe we have the means to make ourselves miserable, and Pittman is a horrifying living example of that-- raving and grimacing, shrieking and glowering, embarrassing and delegitimizing not only herself but any system that would make her its representative.

There is a great deal to be said about this whole Eris debacle, and how it's been handled (or not handled). I personally feel there is enormous and genuine goodwill towards the arrestees from the community at large, goodwill that has gone frustratingly untapped. There have been so many missed opportunities, to get help, to tell the paraders' side of things, to form alliances with the street musicians and Mardi Gras Indians and others who've been fighting this same battle for far longer. People WANT to help, people WANT to know what's going on, but they haven't been given the means, which compounds everyone's alienation... the result is the disempowering sense of being stuck outside a tragedy, unable to be of use. But that is a different e-mail.

Let's help Willy. This sweet young man, a homeowner from Missouri who visited us for Carnival, who dressed as Peter Pan for Eris and doesn't have a mean bone in his body, has been absolutely screwed over by our system. He's certainly a lesser victim compared to the lives our justice system grinds up and throws away daily, but he's still a victim, and he's one I've gotten know and like. He wasn't one of the "bad elements" using soap to draw penises on cars; he was just in the wrong place in the wrong time, and, as shown in the video, did nothing worse than turn and face one of the police officers attacking the crowd. For that, he was tackled, stomped, tazed, and falsely charged. Yes, he was foolish to turn and look at the police when the fleeing crowd had been commanded to face the other direction ("I don't wanna see no faces, I wanna see backs!") but it was only ignorance; he didn't know how our NOPD is.

Anyone who witnessed the quiet dignity, earnest goodwill and courage with which Willy conducted himself in the face of Judge Pittman's violent imprecations and bullying would be moved.

Now Willy's in prison, and will be for some weeks. As a visitor, he doesn't have a lot of close friends here. The House of Detention can be a scary place, and everything scary is worse when you are, or feel, alone.

If you could write him a letter, donate money towards his fines, and/or put some cash in his commissary so he can have an occasional magazine to read or a meal that isn't baloney sandwiches, you would be doing something worthwhile for a guy who needs it.

45 days isn't a long sentence until you're the one serving it, in the round-the-clock deafening, round-the-clock floodlit uniformly hard-surfaced mouldering medieval cages of our parish prison, in windowless fluorescent-flickering metal crates where time and the cycles of day or night lose meaning, where there is only one harsh, cacophonously echoing endless eternal now, a blur of unhappy angry people in an untenable and inhuman situation. Boredom, discomfort, hunger, thirst, heat, cold, fear, uncertainty, exhaustion, and nothing ahead but more of the same. What if they DON'T let you out when they're supposed to? What if someone attacks you, and you defend yourself, and you get hit with additional time? What if you get sick? What if one of the times you get stored down in the peeling-paint transitional cells in the basements where no-one can hear you, they forget about you?

The house of detention is no vacation, least of all for someone who lacks local connections and support networks. Willy needs our support.


This would be lovely. Wouldn't you want a letter from the outside world, some personal note to let you know you're not as isolated as you feel? Something inane and friendly, cheerful and encouraging, something from a friend or from a stranger taking the time to let you know that you're missed and valued... think what that would mean to you.
You may send Willy mail at this address:

William R Watkin
Folder 2303771
3000 Perdido Street,
New Orleans, Louisiana, 70119

There is a big list of what you CANNOT send Willy here: Basically, nothing but letters, money orders, and photographs (!) . No books, magazines, or 'zines, no toiletries, food, or tobacco, no clothing, no envelopes, no stationary, stamps or writing utensils... any of those things Willy wants, he must purchase, if he can, at exorbitant profiteering prices from the prison Commissary.


Willy, an avid and ambitious leisure reader, can't be sent reading material besides personal letters. He will not have the means to write letters to his loving sweetheart back in Missouri or his frantically worrying parents, nor will he have access to remotely wholesome or even pleasurable, good-tasting food, unless money is put in his commissary account.

You can put money in his commissary by mailing Willy a signed money order with his name (William Watkins) and his folder number (2303771) on it, or more easily by visiting the Sherriff's office (that same "temporary" trailer behind the jail where you go to bail people out) and using one of their anti-ATM devices there on-site, or most easily of all by visiting and following the fairly straight-forward steps. "Watkins, William R." is of course in Louisiana >> Orleans Parish >> Orleans Parish Prison.  Note that in accordance with the standard predatory capitalism of our privatized prison system, the helpful folks at "Tiger Correctional Services" will charge you a 7.0 percent fee.

If your experience with Tiger Correctional Services really turns you on, you'll no doubt be gratified upon the conclusion of your transaction at the opportunity to follow them on twitter or "like" them on facebook. They just posted a picture album of their staff enjoying fresh-caught trout at a fishing tournament. I bet that trout was delicious! Delicious, and yet not half as delicious as the roaring blackout nihilism viewing the photo gallery engenders.


Judge Pittman assigned Willy a grand or so in fines and fees, but additionally, at the request of NOPD, she has sentenced him to pay reparations. Apparently Willy shoving the officer didn't merely send the officer to the hospital and require the officer to take several days off, but the same single shove destroyed the officer's new and (apparently very expensive!) eyeglasses and police radio. So, Willy has to pay for replacements, which are hundreds of dollars.

Willy ain't got that kind of cash. Please make a donation via paypal or credit card at, or if that link doesn't work for whatever reason, or you don't want to use plastic or paypal, e-mail me and we'll figure it out. In the blessed but unlikely event that the amount thusly donated exceeds Willy's fines, it will be applied to the thousands of dollars of lawyer fees the other equally nice Eris arrestees have paid & still owe.


After fruitless hours on the phone and web, I have been unable to nail down exactly how to visit Willy, because he's not in the state system yet the way he needs to be for me to get the ball rolling on visitations. This may be because he has not yet been assigned a DOC number, and may still be down in holding rather than up in the 96 tiers of the prison itself.

Rest assured, I will figure this fucking shit out (or the lawyers will, and will let me know). In the meantime, if you'd like to visit Willy, drop me an e-mail and I'll keep you in the loop on that. One proactive step you could take is writing to Willy and giving him your full name so that he knows to put you on his visitor's list. Willy gets along with just about everyone, so don't be shy! I am sure he would love to see you, whoever you are, just for the chance at being reassured in person that people here in New Orleans know and care about his situation.

That concludes this very long e-mail. Thanks for your time, and perhaps your money. Willy may be a stranger to most of us, but he is the first of the arrestees to get actual prison time. I hope he is the last. I hope the whole rotten prison cracks open like an egg, RIGHT NOW, and that all the unjustly imprisoned human beings inside can return to their families and loved ones. Willy doesn't deserve to be in there.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Roadside Attractions

I ran into an old friend today.
She seemed to think something was missing
but she wasn't sure what it was
or what to do about it.

We sat & talked & listened & looked
from many points of view.

She was cheered by this, she said,
and thanked me.

But it was I who was blessed
in being touched by such a beautiful soul.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

You the People; but not us, over here....

So tonight's news brought the usual madness & an announcement that the 'Bandit Sign & Dumping Enforcement' was full on, so we'd better be prepared.

A curiously enthusiastic reporter stood at the corner of Chartres & Frenchmen, in front of a light pole covered with the close cropped & tattered remains of shredded fliers that had been stapled there. It looked worse than I've ever seen it. A tattered mess.

 "This pole was full of signs, just a week ago, but local merchants have TORN THEM DOWN!"

I'm sure they're very proud of their new tatterific display, too.
A huge victory party will no doubt ensue.

 Stacy Head rifled through a huge stack of coroplast bandit signs, mostly for cheap services, free cell phones, 1-800 Buy House & shit like that. Ugly shit. I won't miss them. "Its an epidemic!" she said. I guess, but so is stupidity in government.

Some dude (Steve Mardon?) in Mid-city displayed his LARP like Death Wand El Fantasitco ( a pvc pipe with a nail it in) Bandit Sign Ripper, with which he removes those coroplast 'cheap crap' signs,dispatching them, no doubt, at great mortal peril to himself & The Known Universe.

I wondered why only The Reporter went to Frenchman St, and singled out a corner where mostly music fliers are posted? Is she privy to some insidious plan to persecute Music & Art in the Marigny?
Of course she is.
Because there is one, and we all know it.
A few local fliers targeting a specific neighborhood are just a Public Proclamation. I think we should ask local businesses to allow bulletin board space at key points of our neighborhood. It would serve them well to be such a hub of knowledge....

But, oh, wait;

There's a punch line here that trumps all punch lines.
As each & every business who relies on this for legitimate advertising takes the hit, we close with this cheery tag line;

"Political signs will be exempt."

It must be so fucking nice to be in charge of the pie.
You can make everybody as miserable as you want,
and still take the biggest piece for yourself, every fucking time.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Paper Trail of New Orleans' Culture War; The Battle of New Orleans continues

Sometimes, things float across my line of sight from both sides of the wire, an indication of Friction in Paradise. This happened just yesterday, and with enough passion involved for me to take note.

  I received an email from City Hall, announcing 'The Campaign Against Signs on Public Property'. Great, I thought. Maybe those kabillions of John Georges campaign signs that littered St Claude Avenue during the race for mayor are a thing of the past. Maybe the endless supply of coroplast signs, a non-biodegradable plastic material, in our landfills, would come to a timely end. Maybe those kids who Georges paid (by financing their sports teams) to stand in the street, waving his signs & shouting at cars, would find something better to do than block traffic in the name of Another Rich Guy Who Wants To Be Elected To Something.

Then the patter began to rise about band & gallery fliers.
The email from City Hall reads:

"We are mindful that cultural businesses may host musical groups, have gallery openings or other such events that require advertising.  However, the law requires that you keep signs off of public property and do not distribute fliers on public streets and sidewalks."

There's various opinions about this, of course, including the belief that this will seriously hurt New Orleans performing musicians. I don't personally subscribe to this one, as the only time I've attended a 'fliered' show, it was so packed I couldn't get inside. I think it more notable that music licenses are so often withheld in the City Where Jazz Was Born. I imagine no end to the attendances that might be seen, should the music be allowed to play in the first place.

 Then there's the opinion that these fliers are legitimate art, and deserve a place in our society. This same argument was used regarding tagging graffiti, and begs the question of who decides what 'street art' can be posted, by the local artists or the Klan, or Koch brothers.
Again, the struggle to see & be seen in the world of art & entertainment is the battle all artists, be it on paper or in music, must face. Somehow, covering telephone poles with bits of paper doesn't seem to be an egress into that world, either.

And then, while informative, is it really worth the trouble to place these things on light pole, rather than on a privately owned store front or window? Certainly that works around the law while still allowing the fliers to be seen. And the very term 'Public Streets' brings to mind that fact that much of the public may NOT want to see or use this methodology. And theoretically, the majority rules, right?

This is when I got schooled by the guy who knows more about this than anyone I know...
Enter Rex Dingler of NOLA Rising.

Post K, Mr. Dingler took it upon himself to replace city street signs that were long missing, and yet to be replaced by the city. This lead to the hanging of more artistic signage, offering messages of hope, desperately needed at that dark time. Long story short, he encountered the attention of Fred Radtke, the Grey Ghost, who was much more inclined to roll bland grey paint over every single thing he saw that he found 'offensive', including entire traffic signs, if they held so much as a word of graffiti. Eventually, Mr Radtke had Rex dragged into court on about 50 charges of vandalism or some such rot. From what I understand, the judge found both the charges & Fred Radtke (who has since been arrested for vandalism, himself) ridiculous, and gave Dingler a slap on the wrist.
So, I assume Rex Dingler knows a little something about this.

At this point, I can hear you thinking "Fliers? Are you kidding me?"

But this is where we encounter the ugly term Rex pointed out to me, "Selective Enforcement", a standby of the Serpas Police Squads, and a handy tool for eliminating or gentrifying the culture of our city.

During the 2011 Mardi Gras season, a local hat & costume sale was busted & shut down like a wannabe meth lab, a book store & non-profit bike repair shop were closed, not by Quality of Life officers, but by the notorious 5th District NOPD. And most notably, the Eris parade was set upon by the same NOPD District, and hammered with chemical pepper spray & tasers, for parading without a permit and the vandalism of a few.
While 12 of the Eris paraders face charges over this, some of them felonious and with possible jail time, the NOPD officers who were under investigation for brutality have yet to be dealt with, except for their captain at the time, Bernedine Kelly, getting a quick wash, as she wasn't there, as if holding her responsible for the acts of rogue thug cops held water at all. As yet, the only evidence against the Eris 12 is the testimony of these same cops who were never properly investigated.
  During this same past Carnival, Mardi Gras Indians were, again, hassled by police. Even though this tradition predates the permit structure of New Orleans by generations, here they are, getting messed with like teenagers drinking dad's beer in the school parking lot. Again.

  While all this was going on, the Party on St Charles Avenue was in full swing. After Mayor Mitch announced that there would be absolutely no 'Parade Camps" on the St Charles neutral ground, there they were, back to back & side to side, stretching for over a mile, like some damp Burning Man village, with watchmen who stayed all night, and impromptu fences, so that one might have to walk a block down & back to simply cross their own street.

 The worst these thousands of offenders could expect was a $100 ticket, hardly a high price to pay for a private street side parade camp. Not a single arrest for this was noted. Nobody got a beating or chemical mace sprayed on them in front of their kids. Nobody got dragged to jail, to kneel in a hallway for 3 hours, bleeding, while a cop sprayed Lysol on their wounds, calling them 'motherfucker' and promising off duty retaliation.

If the City of New Orleans wants to clean up it's act, let it begin with a fair enforcement process, and equal justice, rather than applying these myriad 'Quality of Life' laws to the very culture that makes it interesting, driving it further beneath the radar, and in some cases, out of town completely.

While I have my doubts that the Saturn Bar is going to get raided over a few band fliers, those doubts are fading these days. It should be interesting to note how many political signs appear this fall, and beyond, as we swing into 2012, an election year for both our governor & president.

While opinions are still out on the value of The Flier as a viable advertising method in the days of Smart Phones & Face Book, et al, let there be no difference whatsoever in the treatment afforded John Georges vs Wildman John of the Wild Tchoupatoulas or the White Bitch performance schedule.

There is a Culture War going on in New Orleans, folks. While some of this legislation is much needed and worth consideration, it still has to pass public scrutiny, so I suggest paying attention. Of course, being out voted is an American right of passage, I know. But the selective enforcement of any law, good or bad, to control & persecute a selective group of individuals, in this case, the creative classes, less monied & connected than others, is a sure sign of Fascism, plain & simple.

Without these creative efforts, New Orleans would quickly become The Mall.
Without the liberty for creativity, the prognosis is worse: A society unable to create.
And this is a sure sign of the oncoming Death of The City Where Jazz Was Born.

If we are to be ruled by such confining ordinances, let them be applied across the board. The very first time you see a political sign on a neutral ground, take a picture of it, and demand prosecution. In the meantime, get out & see some music & art.
It's everywhere.

We just aren't allowed to leave you a note anymore.