Video of an altercation between Frenchmen Street brass band musicians and the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) last night has gone viral.
The five-and-a-half minute cellphone video, shot by Facebook user Christopher Henry, shows NOPD arriving at the corner of Chartres and Frenchmen streets in response to a noise complaint by a local business, during which brass band musician Eugene Grant was arrested "for obstructing public passages and resisting an officer," according to an NOPD spokesman.
Several people in the video identify the owners of Frenchmen Art & Books as the people who called NOPD. The shop, which did business for decades as an LGBT and feminist bookstore known as Faubourg Marigny Art & Books under former owners Alan Robinson and Otis Fennell, was sold in March, according to its website.
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The store is registered with the Louisiana Secretary of State to an LLC called Studio DMZ, whose registered agent is David Zalkind. The business is being criticized on social media. No one answered the phone there Tuesday afternoon.
According to a tweet by the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans, Grant was released this morning:
An update on the brass band musician arrested last night--he was released as of this morning, and was charged with resisting/obstructing an officer and obstructing the public right of way. A video of part of the incident is on social media, and we are looking for a full video.— MaCCNO (@musicculture504) July 9, 2019
Zena Moses, a musician who was playing a gig at the club 30°/-90°, told Gambit she showed up at 8:45 p.m. and saw NOPD officers running to the corner about 10 minutes later, where the Slow Rollas Brass Band was playing for a crowd.
NOPD spokesman Andy Cunningham told Gambit in a statement, "Eighth District officers asked members of a brass band playing in the street to move to the sidewalk in order to allow traffic to pass and to not block the entrance to a nearby business. At that time, a member of the band later identified as Eugene Grant struck one of the officers in the chest with his instrument, damaging the officer’s body-worn camera.
"After striking the officer with his instrument, Grant refused repeated requests by both officers and citizens to calm down, forcing the officers to detain Grant until backup arrived. Grant was arrested for obstructing public passages and resisting an officer."
Catherine Buccello of New York, who was in town for the Essence Music Festival, was among those filming on her cellphone. She told Gambit that NOPD officers — she estimated 10 to 15 of them were on the scene — had their Tasers out as Grant was pinned to the ground.
"Emotions were running high" on both sides, she said.
Buccello said Frenchmen Street workers told her that Grant, a regular on the block, would be taken home by local workers when their shifts were over.
"It's just very heartbreaking to see after celebrating Essence Fest," Buccello said.
Moses said Grant, who is in his early 20s, is a "floater," who plays trumpet with various bands on the corner and is well known: “New Orleans musicians, they practically raised this little boy.”
Grant is known to be disabled, Moses said, “as we say in the city, ‘slow,'" but that he was "never irate. ... I can’t see him being aggressive." Grant’s mother, Betty, told The New Orleans Advocate Eugene has developmental delays and is on the autism spectrum.
Moses said she counted 15 police cars responding to the incident — 13 marked and two unmarked, both NOPD and Louisiana state troopers — and has video of them.
“You would think they had weapons of mass destruction the way the police were responding,” she added.
"NOPD will always celebrate our city’s world-famous traditions and culture, including its music," Cunningham said in his statement, "while also responding accordingly to complaints made by our residents, visitors and business owners."
The band plans to perform its regular gig on the corner at 8 p.m. tonight, and has asked supporters to show up and help control pedestrian traffic.
Brass bands have traditionally been a fixture at that corner, which is anchored by Frenchmen Art & Books, Dat Dog, Willie's Chicken Shack (on the site of the former Praline Connection) and the defunct Cafe Brasil. At night, dozens if not hundreds of people, many of them tourists, often are at the corner enjoying free brass band music.
“Musicians are the one that enhance the culture,” Moses said, but “the musicians always get the short end of the stick.”
— This story has been updated with eyewitness accounts and an official response from the New Orleans Police Department.