The Frenchmen Street patrol is out of control. Street artists are becoming marginalized and treated with every kind of villainy.

I am a street poet with a typewriter, a vivid imagination and the courage to put myself on the street with the intention of exciting people about the love of writing and poetry.

I am not a vagrant or a panhandler, nor do I engage in violence. Poets are not a threat to the businesses on Frenchmen Street. In fact, we enhance the New Orleans cultural experience. So why is the Frenchmen Street patrol pushing us around?

We understand the position of the Frenchmen Marigny Triangle Business Association. It wants to protect the businesses of the Marigny and make Frenchmen Street a safe and enjoyable alternative to Bourbon Street.

Does that mean we should erase the culture of Frenchmen Street? We have never been criminals or participants of violence. The officer had no choice but to enforce the command of his superior and forced us to move.

We were set up in front of the bicycle shop between Snug Harbor and d.b.a. and told we needed to move a half-block off the street. He insisted the reason was a matter of blocking the sidewalk. Our typewriters and tray tables barely cover a third of the sidewalk. We were not blocking the flow of traffic.

Do we really want to be a city where street artists are equated with the perps of society? Street performers are a crucial part of New Orleans’ success. As artists, we sit in front of closed businesses, filling in a space that would not be used. Whether we sell hand-crafted goods or showcase our musical talent by playing in a band, we tap into the muse of this great city with all its color and vitality.

The Frenchmen Street patrol is using its power selectively to police the sidewalk, and that is wrong. We welcome the opportunity to talk with members of the FMTBA and resolve this issue. The poets of Frenchmen Street have been long-documented, sought after and remembered by people for years. Don’t relegate us to the dust of history. Don’t demote us by some misconceived notions of Frenchmen Street security. Set up the infrastructure necessary so permits are available for dedicated vendors. Let us re-envision what the true purpose of the Frenchmen Street patrol is: to protect and serve the locals and patrons of the street while maintaining the cultural significance.

David Blanton

writer

New Orleans