The To Be Continued Brass Band came out in force tonight at the corner of Canal and Bourbon streets to protest the city's apparent decision to suddenly start enforcing a city ordinance that prohibits playing music in the streets after 8 pm.
"It's been a law since 1956 or something, but [we've been playing here] from 2001 to 2010, they just all of a sudden want to start enforcing it now," said Joseph Maize, a trombone player with the group.
Was Maize willing to get arrested tonight? "I wouldn't mind getting arrested," he told Gambit. "You want to take me for doing the right thing, take me. I'm from the...projects, all the people I know doing the wrong thing, you all don't take them, so why come take me? It makes me feel frustrated, like: What is your reason for doing this? It's meaningless. Nobody's life is in danger here, everybody's having fun, socializing. But the people whose lives are in danger? You're not right there."
The band started with Bob Marley's Get Up, Stand Up at 7:40, after a quick prayer:
Prayer before playing...
Roughly 200 people watched the music as advocates for the group worked the crowd with petitions, asking the city to reconsider the ordinance. The Lucky Dog vendor on the corner opposite took a few blank petitions and had his customers fill them out. Later, the band played a song called I Won't Fk With You if You Don't Fk With Me and followed it with a rendition of They Want To Lock Me Up and Throw Away the Key.
Also in the crowd and signing were Jacques Morial, Co-Director of the Louisiana Justice Institute, and defense attorney Carol A. Kolinchak.
"They'll hire these same people to play at their inauguration events but they punish them for playing in the same spots that got them to where they are," said Kolinchak.
"The enforcement comes in cycles every three to five years," said Morial. "But there are lots of dangerous criminals out there that should be arrested."
A legal strategy meeting is planned for this weekend, and Gambit will have an update first thing, Monday morning.
Ben and Adrienne Fletcher were visiting from Athens, Ga., a town known for its own music scene. Both said they didn't understand why the city would discourage live music, particularly on Bourbon Street. "Street music is good for neighborhoods," Ben said. Adrienne said Athens street bands in commercial districts have a time they must stop playing, but it's well after 8 pm.
Band members usually make around $80 each on a typical night playing from 7pm to 11pm, said Darren Towns, 25, who started off playing trumpet with the band in 2002, but has since graduated to bass drum. Many members rely solely on their earnings from playing with the band. Towns didn't know why NOPD was beginning to enforce ordinances that had long been ignored, either, but was willing to speculate.
"I guess they've got these new people in place, so they want to put on a show," he said.
"I don't see who could complain right here," said tuba player Bernard Adams, 24. "There aren't any residential buildings nearby, and the tourists love us. We've been playing right here every Tuesday through Saturday night since before Katrina."
Trombonist Roy Lancaster with the Young Fellaz brass band who showed up in support said he and his band had also been moved on last Friday from their spot on Frenchmen Street. Just six weeks ago, however, Lancaster said Mayor Mitch Landrieu stopped by and said hello, shaking his hand when the band was playing around Jackson Square.
A spokesman for Mayor Landrieu's office referred Gambit to police spokesman Bob Young for comment this afternoon. Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas issued this statement in response to our inquiries, saying he also now plans to crack down on large walking tours in the French Quarter, too.
The police didn't make any arrests tonight they just drove past the protest three times. Then the band decided to call it a night, just before 9pm, but they promised to be back in force tomorrow.
After the crowd disbanded, Gambit walked down one block to Bourbon and Iberville (at the end of the video below), where several clubs open to the street had music blaring out their doors at decibel levels that would certainly be disruptive to anyone in the area who might be trying to sleep.
There was not a live band in sight.