Early last week, NOPD began presenting musicians with a letter notifying them of looming enforcement of ordinances preventing street performances after 8 p.m. on public streets. Several bands continued to play, unsure what the repercussions would be, and as of press time, there were no known citations or arrests.
Asked for comment about the new enforcement, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and City Council District C representative Kristin Gisleson Palmer issued vague statements about reviewing quality of life issues and the ordinances. (City Council president Arnie Fielkow and vice president Jackie Clarkson did not return
Gambit's calls.) But trombonist Glen David Andrews addressed the issue directly in a protest in Jackson Square on Friday afternoon.
"We're not going to have another musician getting a ticket," Andrews said. "And if we get word, if I get word of any other musicians being harassed, we're going to get Trombone Shorty, Lenny Kravitz, the Andrews, Rebirth [Brass Band], Dr. John, and we're going to march on City Hall.
"If you've got a problem with the Andrews next generation, all the next generation musicians coming up in New Orleans, then why don't you just give 'em guns and crack and send them in the neighborhoods?" Andrews asked, before leading a second line around the square. "Cause that's basically what you're doing."
The TBC Brass Band usually plays on the corner of Bourbon and Canal streets from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. On June 15, NOPD officer Roger Jones notified the band that the city would begin enforcing existing ordinances prohibiting live music after 8 p.m. A copy of an open letter to musicians provided to Gambit cites section 30-1456 of municipal code prohibiting street music or entertainment between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. on Bourbon Street. It also cited section 66-205, which disallows music on any public rights-of-way between 8 p.m. and 9 a.m. without a permit. In a videotape of police notifying the TBC of the new enforcement, the officer said enforcement would be citywide, including Jackson Square and Frenchmen Street, regular sites for street performances.
On Wednesday, NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas issued a statement citing "numerous complaints from residents of the French Quarter" about violations of existing ordinances by street performers (as well as walking tours).
That night, the TBC returned to Bourbon Street, huddled for a quick prayer and then began playing Bob Marley's "Get Up, Stand Up." Band members earn about $80 each on a typical night. But the group was unsure what course the night would take.
"I wouldn't mind getting arrested," said Joseph Maize, who has played trombone with for the band since 2001. "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."
Among the crowd of roughly 200 spectators 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," Kolinchak said.
A Facebook page set up in support of the musicians gathered more than 7,000 fans in less than 72 hours.
The TBC returned to its regular spot on Thursday night, and friends of the band held signs that read "Keep our culture on the streets," "Street musicians = an honest living."
"The police haven't said anything to us yet," said trombone player Edward "Juicey" Jackson III. "We'll be out here for a while, if we can."