When the New Orleans City Council passed an ordinance in October prohibiting “aggressive solicitation” by people who allegedly harass or intimidate French Quarter residents and tourists while asking for money, it included a seemingly unrelated provision that attracted no attention at the time.
southern_decadence_opponents_bourbon_street.jpgView full sizeAlex Brandon, The Times-Picayune archiveAnti-gay campaigners were photographed on Bourbon Street during Southern Decadence in 2003.
That sentence, almost at the end of the eight-page ordinance, said: “It shall be prohibited for any person or group of persons to loiter or congregate on Bourbon Street for the purpose of disseminating any social, political or religious message between the hours of sunset and sunrise.”
Although the law, sponsored by Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer, spelled out the justification for the crackdown on aggressive panhandlers, it offered no explanation for the blanket ban on letting people assemble on Bourbon Street at night to voice their views on politics or religion.
When someone complained about the law this week, however, it was not to challenge it as an infringement on First Amendment freedoms. Instead, former mayoral candidate Leo Watermeier complained to Palmer and Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson in public emails that religious demonstrators, sometimes with large signs and bullhorns, have been showing up on Bourbon Street on Friday and Saturday nights, yet police have taken no action against them.
Watermeier wages an annual battle with the small group of anti-gay campaigners who show up during the Southern Decadence festival, using bullhorns and picket signs to convey their message that homosexuality is evil and that its public celebration during Decadence is particularly abominable.
Brendan McCarthy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 504.826.3301. Bruce Eggler can be reached at email@example.com or 504.826.3320.
This is why this city is or use to be the number city for crime. They seem to have no time for God.