From The Skull Club

Jan 7, 2007 by

For those fortunate enough to have been invited, The Skull Club is a well known and loved gathering. I have had that good fortune. As a result Lord David, who orchestrates the proceedings and keeps the rolls of membership, has become a friend. I am proud to be able to add his voice to the ongoing dialogue:

Spain & Rampart, Marigny
Sunday, January 7th, 2007

Having just returned from the Ad Hoc town meeting on violence in the Marigny/Bywater neighborhoods, in preparation for a march on City Hall, this Thursday, 1/11/07, I am reviewing the Times Picayune I picked up on the way home.

While I expected some good and bad ideas to arise from today’s meeting, I was not surprised by any in either extreme, pleasantly so, as this gathering was thrown together in the last few days, mostly by friends and neighbors still stricken with grief.

While some of these suggestions meet with sour looks, like disarming all residents as a start for peace, some met without outright booing, like boycotting Mardi Gras until the murders stop. The thought of disarming everyone in the neighborhood sounds reasonable in a TV Land, sing-a-long kind of way, but would leave us all publicly at the hands of those with weapons. I might point out the young couple who, when being robbed at gun point out side the Pheonix, saved their own lives by killing the gunman on the spot. As for canceling Mardi Gras, that sounds like grounding your kid because the bully beat him up. And in that regard, I got the shock of the day…

It seems that Warren Riley is now putting forth the idea of curfew once again.  Since we have a police superintendent who cannot manage his forces, or personnel.  He wants to hold us all prisoners in our homes while the criminals with guns roam the streets. This would not have helped Helen Hill, who had her attacker knock at her door at 5:30 in the morning. The local policeman who web surfs in his cruiser down the block would have seen nothing either way.

I recall being chased down by police for being on my neighbors’ doorstep at 8:30 one night, just over a year ago, for being out after curfew. They threatened my wife, neighbor & I with arrest for Public Intoxication for having a cocktail together on his doorstep. While residents of Uptown New Orleans enjoyed a 2am curfew in the French Quarter, we who live a few blocks across Elysian Fields, and in the Bywater, were herded like cattle, sometimes at gunpoint, into our homes at 8pm. Why? Because of the rubber-stamp curfew of the 70117 designed to protect the lower 9th Ward. Obviously, those of us on this side of the Industrial Canal were not flooded out, returned to our homes & jobs and intended to rebuild our city. We waited months before being allowed out after 8. I haven’t been so restricted since entering Junior High School.

The idea that the lack of police management can be ignored while we, the citizens of this Great City, are locked behind our doors, quivering in fear of any late knock, is absurd beyond all possibility. I’ve lived in Washington DC when it took the Murder Capitol Crown from New Orleans. I lived in New York City’s lower east side during the crack epidemic. No police force ever locked the citizens down because they couldn’t do their job. Let’s find somebody who can. I’m told that New Orleans has a ratio of 600 police officers per every 100,000 citizens, one of the highest in the country. I’ve seen as many as nine at a time, gathered on Bourbon Street, as many as three protecting one single exotic dancer. A shift in management skills is in order.

Our very freedom is at risk by this kind of thinking, Mister Riley. Our very lives.  Better you lose your job then another child loses a mother, another husband, his wife. Do your job, or let us find someone who can. We’re not going to lockdown.

Lord David – Artist
New Orleans

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