Why Is Policing on Claiborne Avenue More Intense Than Policing in the French Quarter?

New Orleans 7th Ward near Claiborne Ave Corridor” by Infrogmation is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Due to a steep decrease in COVID-19 cases, New Orleans moved into Modified Phase Three COVID-19 restrictions this month

These relaxed requirements reduced the curfew placed on bars so they can now stay open until 1 AM, increased the permitted amount of people allowed to gather indoors and outdoors, to 150 and 250 respectively, and, most importantly to many, enabled live music to return to the city. 

It feels like a new, slightly foreign world that we’re all re-entering. It’s exciting, it seems like “the old normal” is within our grasps, however, restrictions are still in place. Masks and social distancing are still required. Outdoor and indoor space occupancy limits still remain. 

The New Orleans Police Department has promised to enforce these guidelines. However, as the NOPD, an organization that has always struggled with equitable enforcement, they haven’t been policing equally across the city. 

Numerous New Orleans residents have noticed that policing under the Claiborne Avenue underpass, in the Claiborne corridor, is much stricter than policing in the French Quarter. Police have been blocking the intersection under Claiborne Avenue, and streets around the area, for weeks to stop residents from socializing there. 

One concerned resident, Lee Lemond, explained that when he passed the Claiborne corridor when he was coming from the French Quarter on Sunday, “I saw 20 plus police cars blocking intersections, and that was simply to, from my understanding, prevent people from gathering there, which of course, that’s where local Black people gather and not tourists. It was completely opposite where I had just come from. It’s incredibly unfair. It’s almost disgustingly unfair to be honest with you.” 

When WDSU called Mayor Cantrell’s office to ask about the policing, spokesman Beau Tidwell, responded that “The NOPD was responding to requests from residents. It wasn’t a matter of just on a whim that they decided to go under the Claiborne corridor. It’s a situation where local residents had specific concerns around public safety in that area. We had complaints about vehicles stopping traffic on North Claiborne, which causes gridlock. They stop the traffic so people can do burnouts, doughnuts or whatever. That creates a couple of issues; it creates a public safety issue. The NOPD was over there responding to those specific concerns.” 

New Orleans residents have questioned whether these “complaints” are real, or if the NOPD is just unfairly suppressing the gathering of minority communities in the Claiborne corridor while enabling tourists to flock to and frolic on Bourbon Street. 

A concerned New Orleans resident Dulaine Vining reached out to Big Easy Magazine to comment, “This is a form of suppression, the sentiment the city has is scary and dated for our black, brown, and Asian community in this Corridor. The amount of cops and resources diverted from high crime areas is crazy, only to stop us from gathering. After their continued excuse of neighbors complaining it’s ludicrous in a commercial corridor. Also, if there are traffic congestion issues, the same cops could be used as traffic enforcement. With over 60% black people, this is the only area black people can socialize; just as Bourbon. These cops deter business from our small businesses with all the lights flashing and heavy presence. This is “in your face” suppression and racism by a black Mayor and a silenced city council who’s supposed to advocate for the community.” 

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