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 a
t 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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
You are New Orleans, too.
This is also YOUR city.
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.