‘You’re hurting Black communities’: Second line groups outraged after city announces stricter enforcement of size limitations

“It’s not the social aid and pleasure clubs, it’s not the second line parades, it’s not the Black Masking Indians, it’s not the baby dolls. Something else is wrong with the city.”
Published: Mar. 7, 2022 at 5:06 PM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - When the City of New Orleans announced on Saturday, less than a week after Mardi Gras, that the rules governing the size of second line parades would be more strictly enforced, Edward Buckner said he thought the statement wasn’t real.

“So you don’t want to talk to the clubs, but you can talk to the whole world about what you’re doing to the clubs,” Buckner, the President and Founder of The Original Big Seven Social Aid and Pleasure Club, Inc. “I’ve got to find out what you’re doing to me on [social media].”

Buckner’s second line takes place on Mother’s Day every year, and has for nearly three decades. His group is one of many across New Orleans that honor and uplift their communities by holding second line parades.

“My parade is for people that can’t get out to see the parades, it’s to bring them to the community,” he said. “Not in a fashion less than they are supposed to have, [but] in the full glory of what the community’s supposed to shine like.”

But his second line, and others, could be impacted by a move the city is making.

On Saturday, the city announced via social media that NOPD representatives met with the organizer of the VIP Ladies & Kids Social Aid and Pleasure Club, which held its second line on Sunday.

In the post, the city goes on to write that NOPD asked the organizer to honor limitations to the size of the second line. The city administration writes that they are not enforcing a new regulation but due to “public safety bandwith,” the police would be enforcing size restrictions more tightly throughout the second line season.

The “elements” of second lines the post refers to include things like floats and bands.

“I’m not putting this on the police, I’m putting this dead center on the city. If we had the NFL, we have Jazz Fest, and whatever else, we figured out how to divide the manpower to make it work,” Buckner said. “I’ve been living in these communities. Am I supposed to sit and watch them take away from the value of the community?”

In a statement, a city spokesperson said the NOPD is just enforcing existing laws, and that clubs have abused or violated these restrictions “for some time now.”

In a press conference Tuesday, city officials said the renewed push for code obedience stems largely from a police manpower shortage.

More: Second line size enforcement mostly due to police manpower, city says

Buckner has questions.

“We’re taking the music off the corners in the neighborhoods. What more are we going to do to affect the New Orleans culture? The New Orleans Black culture,” he said. “You’re hurting Black communities where Black people are coming together to make one common good of having something for their community. The culture starts in the neighborhood, the culture is about the neighborhood.”

The Original Big Seven second line honors the St. Bernard Projects, and those people who lived and died there. The projects were torn down following Hurricane Katrina.

For nearly 30 years, the club has done a second line that begins at Buckner’s home off Elysian Fields Avenue and runs up St. Bernard Avenue.

“The culture has participation from neighborhood folks. Clubs like my clubs and some of the other clubs, we don’t just have people from our neighborhoods in the club, we have people from the surrounding city,” Buckner said. “How do our children start to understand that the brother in the Ninth Ward is his friend, the brother in the Sixth Ward is his friend?”

The timing of the announcement comes less than a week after Mardi Gras, and just under a month since Mayor LaToya Cantrell marched in the Treme Sidewalk Steppers.

A spokesperson from the Mayor’s Office said:

The NOPD is simply enforcing the laws that are already in place. Many clubs have abused or violated these ordinances for some time now. In an effort not to have an uncomfortable conversation at the time of the parade, the NOPD has been proactive and met with the groups prior to the date of the parades.

Buckner said he hasn’t been in communication with anyone from the city.

“Something is wrong with our city, and it’s not the social aid and pleasure clubs, it’s not the second line parades, it’s not the Black Masking Indians, it’s not the baby dolls, something else is wrong with the city,” he said. “You don’t change the game in the middle of the game.”

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