In what was meant to be a press conference to announce that the city would move into Phase 3.3 of reopening, Mayor LaToya Cantrell said she was “furious” over the concert held at Washington Artillery Park across from Jackson Square on Saturday.
The mayor said the gathering, which was organized by Christian musicians Sean Feucht and Lauren Daigle and drew a large and mostly mask-less crowd to the French Quarter, was “not permitted, not allowed, not authorized [and] not coordinated at all by the city of New Orleans.”
“The organizers were given a directive by the city of New Orleans that it would not be permitted,” Cantrell said.
Despite this directive, the New Orleans Police Department treated the crowd as it would a group of protesters, blocking off traffic.
A tweet from @NOPDNews read, “#TRAFFIC ALERT! A community demonstration is underway at 701 Decatur St. in Jackson Square. An estimated 400 people are participating.”
Cantrell said due to the size of the crowd, the NOPD “moved to a response to a protest [and] followed their guidelines and protocols,” adding that, “they did so in the best interest of the public.”
The event angered many New Orleans residents who saw it as a snub to the city’s many live performers who have been negatively financially impacted by the city’s guidelines that restrict concerts and the playing of brass instruments — essential in the city’s second line musical tradition.
“…You allowed this event before allowing local musicians to get back to work,” Jessica Lozano commented on Facebook during a live stream of the press conference.
In April, NOPD arrested and jailed two men for organizing a large second line event that violated a ban on large public gatherings. And in August, an out-of-work second line food vendor was fined $300 for setting up shop under the Claiborne overpass in an effort to pay his rent.
No fines for violating masking protocols were issued to the concert-goers on Saturday, despite NOPD being authorized to write fines of up to $500 for anyone in public without a mask.
Cantrell — who said “under the guise of a religious activity [the concert] put our people in danger” — mentioned that the city’s legal team is looking into opportunities to hold the show’s organizers accountable.