On Jan. 17 a crowd of hundreds, led by a wailing brass band and trombonist Glen David Andrews, blasted into New Orleans City Hall.
The Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans (MACCNO) — made up of musicians, bar and venue owners and their advocates — organized a rally at Duncan Plaza outside City Hall to be held before City Council's Housing and Human Needs committee meeting, which had on its agenda the draft of the controversial noise ordinance. The night before, Councilwomen Kristin Gisleson Palmer and Stacy Head abruptly canceled the committee meeting and announced the withdrawal of the ordinance, which they said they plan to introduce in a different form later in the month. Nevertheless, the protest rally went on as planned.
"We've often seen these issues around regulation framed in the press and by our opponents as a conflict between musicians and residents. That's not right," said MACCNO spokeswoman Hannah Kreiger-Benson. "We live here, we work here, we vote here. We are the residents."
District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell second-lined with the group into City Council chambers, where she handed them the mic and held an open forum.
Speakers addressed what they feel are restrictive laws that not only prevent them from earning a living but contradict the city's advertising of and reliance on music tourism. Chuck Perkins, owner of Cafe Istanbul, said "The city has always benefited from music, but they've never paid attention to it."
"It's time to stop being scared to go to jail for what's right," said Andrews. "You got to do to [Mayor] Mitch Landrieu what Mitch Landrieu doing to you. ... As long as Queen Jackie [Council President Jackie Clarkson] is in District C, we're going to have a fight."
City Council District A candidate Drew Ward and District C candidate Eloise Williams also spoke out against the ordinance.
A band with several trumpets, trombones, guitars, banjos and percussion — all playing "It Ain't My Fault" — paraded to the City Hall steps and through the glass doors and past security and the front desk. City Hall staff looked on and smiled from the second-floor balcony.
Cantrell joined (and danced with) the crowd as it moved down the hall toward council chambers. The crowd chanted, "Go get the mayor."
"You have a right to be here, and we're going to do our best to accommodate you while you're here," Cantrell told the crowd. Andrews called for a "jazz funeral" for the noise ordinance as the band began "A Closer Walk With Thee."
Members in the crowd lined up to the podium to address Cantrell, the sole council member at the impromptu meeting, though she said staff members from the offices of Councilwomen Susan Guidry, Kristin Gisleson Palmer and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell were present. Landrieu was at a previously scheduled meeting at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. — Alex Woodward