Serpas on Thursday said there is little his officers can do to prevent every person on a parade route from breaking those laws. He said a parade culture has developed in which people believe they are entitled to essentially live on the neutral ground for parades.In fairness to NOPD, I will say that they have indeed been keeping the intersections clear all season. And that's not an inconsequential improvement. For one thing, it means there's at least one spot every block where a crowd can use the available space comfortably. The majority of the neutral ground, however, remains pretty jammed up.
While he said his officers often ask people to move ladders or to remove furniture, they comply but replace the items once the officers have left the area.
One aspect Serpas said his officers will zero in on this year is blocked intersections. That, Serpas said, will not be tolerated.
Ultimately, he said, the police will ask parade-goers to use “common sense, common courtesy and common safety,” a theme echoed from previous years.
I know it's going to rain for the next few days so it's reasonable to see some temporary shelters go up. But they do take up an awful lot of real estate and make what would be the back row of the crowd practically unusable to all but a few spectators.
They also cause part of the crowd to spill out into the side of St. Charles Avenue which is technically still open to traffic, thus further jamming things up unnecessarily.
The prohibitions against erecting structures on the neutral ground exist in order to make it possible for everyone to enjoy the parades comfortably. Maybe "a parade culture has developed" which makes these laws unenforceable, but as long as the experience remains less than optimal, then the police should at least make the effort to remind people of them.
Sometimes, though, the enforcement effort should be more active than that. Friday night a group of college age kids were allowed to set up a private port-o-let on the neutral ground at Third Street.
Every so often, while the port-o-let was occupied by one kid, some of the others would come by and push it just enough to make it appear as though they might tip it over. Thankfully we were not treated to that particular demonstration of "parade culture" hi-jinx. We did, however, get to see this guy climb up onto one of the Morpheus floats and dance for us for a good 10 minutes or so while the parade was halted.
This seems like the sort of thing NOPD might want to step in and say something about in the interest of "common sense, common courtesy and common safety" but there weren't any around. Eventually the float riders made the point by dousing the guy with beer.
Just to be clear, my commments here should in no way be taken as a complaint against "parade culture" or drunkenness or even general jackassery. I myself witnessed these events while quite drunkenly stomping and dancing up and down the street all night. That's what Mardi Gras is for. But these ordinances are there so that we can all engage in our civic jackassery in a (relatively) safe and happy manner. If the Chief of Police isn't going to take that seriously, then how can we expect anyone else to?
Tonight there was a triple shooting in the 400 block of Bourbon Street. I can't imagine that will be as easily shrugged off as an inevitable result of a "culture that has developed" but we'll see.