by Jack Burns, The Free Thought Project:
New Orleans, LA — An apparent clash of culture and business occurred on the streets of New Orleans Monday evening. A brass band was playing on the street outside a bookstore in The Big Easy. The bookstore was accused by bystanders of calling the police on the band saying the band was causing a disturbance. When police arrived, one member of the band was accused of obstructing justice and resisting arrest — over playing music.
Eugene Grant, a 27-year-old member of the band, was accused of hitting one of the police officers’ body cameras with his trumpet prompting police to escalate use of force in what appears to be a violent take down and arrest of the trumpeter. Bystanders can be heard decrying the manner in which the arrest was made in a video which has now gone viral.
In the video, a crowd can be seen gathering around Grant with bystanders asking police why the use of force was even necessary. One citizen can be seen confronting the owners of Frenchmen Art & Books on Frenchman Street and Chartres streets although what he said to them cannot be heard. At the same time Grant was being violently taken into custody for the crime of playing his trumpet in his band on the street outside the bookstore, the owners looked on in silence. One man approached the couple and blamed their call to police for the resulting arrest.
On Tuesday, predictably, charges were dropped against Grant. His lawyer addressed the situation with reporters for NOLA.com. Attorney Cherrell Simms Taplin, Grant’s lawyer said:
Eugene was just a musician from New Orleans, doing what New Orleans musicians do. They play on the street, on Frenchmen Street. That’s a part of that neighborhood.
New Orleans Police Spokesman Andy Cunningham issued the following statement. He said police arrived around 9:30 pm and asked the band to move away from the entrance of the bookstore to allow patrons to enter and exit the store without obstruction.
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.
According to NOLA.com, citizens angry at the treatment Grant received took their concerns to Yelp and left reviews on Frenchmen Art & Books page. One critic wrote:
Who opens a bookstore on a street famous for being the epicenter of music in New Orleans? Then calls the cops on the brass bands that have been playing there for YEARS.
The obvious clash of ideas resulted in one man being kidnapped, caged, and arguably traumatized for playing his trumpet too loudly near a bookstore in an area of New Orleans few visit to buy paperbacks. It’s unclear how the bookstore will be able to rebuilt trust in a community so connected to music. As TFTP has consistently reported, when cops cannot charge someone with a crime they often provoke a conflict so they can charge someone with obstruction of justice and resisting arrest.