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Social clubs: Don't rein in our parades
The city of New Orleans desperately wants the world to know its culture is alive and well, and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, which ends today, is getting the message out.
But just as the city waves its flag for the arts, it is cracking down on a tradition considered the heart of Crescent City music — "second line" parades.
Second lines follow brass bands and are organized by neighborhood social clubs. The tradition is more than 100 years old and was crucial to the development of jazz.
Since Hurricane Katrina, the city has more than doubled the cost of a second-line-parade permit. Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union agreed to file a First Amendment lawsuit against the city in support of the clubs' right to parade without paying high fees for police protection.
The suit, to be announced this week, is on behalf of the New Orleans Social Aid and Pleasure Club Task Force.
"Before Katrina," said Michelle Longino, who serves on the Task Force leadership committee, "a one-band parade was $1,200, with a police escort."
After a shooting at a large parade earlier this year, police raised the fee to $4,400.
Longino said her group negotiated the fee down to $2,200, but after another, fatal shooting the police raised the price to $3,800.
"It's cost-prohibitive for these clubs, which tend to be from low- to middle-income African-American neighborhoods," she said.
Longino estimates that before Katrina, there were 54 second lines, which had parades "almost every weekend," from Labor Day to Memorial Day. Activity has since been more sparse.
"This is a much more complex problem that needs to be addressed in a myriad of ways," she said.
— Paul de Barros,
Seattle Times jazz critic
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company