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New Orleans musicians have organized a rally and second line for brass band musician Eugene Grant set for Sunday, July 21, 2019.

New Orleans musicians are planning a rally and a second line for Sunday afternoon, starting in Jackson Square and ending at 600 Frenchmen St. — the spot where the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) arrested brass band musician Eugene Grant last week.

“The event on Sunday is less of a protest than a support march,” said Megan Kiefer, a lawyer representing Grant, who is helping secure permits for the rally.

The rally was born out of an outcry among the musicians' community and their supporters after videos went viral on social media showing Grant’s arrest. The videos show crowds of people at the corner of Frenchmen and Chartres streets on Monday, July 8 — watching and shouting as Grant is handcuffed by two officers on the ground. Witnesses told Gambit they saw between 10 and 15 officers at the scene.

According to The Lens, David Zalkind, owner of Frenchmen Arts and Books, called the police after what he felt was a violation of the agreement he had made with the Young Fellaz Brass Band about when the band could play in front of the store. 

A statement from NOPD spokesman Andy Cunningham said Grant “struck one of the officers in the chest with his instrument, damaging the officer’s body-worn camera” and “refused repeated requests by both officers and citizens to calm down.” He was arrested for obstructing public passages and resisting an officer, the statement said. 

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All charges were eventually dropped against Grant, and he was released after spending one night in jail, said Kiefer.

Several witnesses at the scene said they felt police were being too rough with Grant, 27, who is on the autism spectrum, according to his mother. Kiefer said Grant likely weighs less than 100 pounds.

Kiefer said she plans to release a full public statement on behalf of Grant and his family later tonight and that he is “completely overwhelmed by the outpour of love and support” from the community — including both musicians and other residents.

For many New Orleans musicians, Grant’s arrest is not evidence of a new problem but rather a symptom of a changing landscape in the city, including business development and gentrification.

Musician Zena Moses told Gambit that people have been “trying to change the dynamics of the culture” of New Orleans for at least a decade.

“As gentrification continues to challenge our communities, we need to support the musicians who supply the music that is the backbone to the culture of this city,” the event page read. “The musical traditions deserve to be preserved and protected, especially the long standing traditions of street brass bands.”

“We want it to be a wake-up call for community leaders to build bridges between musicians, police and business owners so that everyone can work together to foster what everyone wants: music on Frenchmen Street,” Kiefer said, adding that she had been in contact with Councilmember Kristin Giselson Palmer, who Kiefer said seemed to support the idea.

The Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans (MaCCNO) is in the process of developing recommendations of how to improve conditions for musicians, police and business owners, Kiefer said. She added that several musicians have suggested closing the street to vehicles during certain hours to give musicians space to play, while some favor having designated zones on the streets for musicians.

If permits are secured, organizers plan to have speakers at the rally, which will begin at 2 p.m. Kiefer said Grant wrote a song about his experience getting arrested and spending time in jail, which he hopes to perform Sunday. 

“All he wants to do is play music,” she said.

Follow Kaylee Poche on Twitter: @kaylee_poche

Email Gambit staff writer Kaylee Poche at