Parade goers claiming space on neutral ground sparks controversy


Posted on February 22, 2012 at 11:22 PM

Updated Thursday, Feb 23 at 10:32 AM

Monica Hernandez / Eyewitness News
Email: | Twitter: @mhernandezwwl

NEW ORLEANS - As Kristin Isenberg takes down her Carnival decorations at her Uptown home, she reflects on one of the more frustrating seasons she's experienced.

"It was a different feel this year because people were nasty about their space," said Isenberg.

Isenberg said more tents than usual packed the neutral ground before Bacchus rolled Sunday, making it a challenge to find space even hours before the parade.

"People were sectioning off huge areas with rope, and with ladders, like, tied to each other so you couldn't move anything," said Isenberg. "There was no space for my children to stand."

City rules say no structures can be erected on the neutral ground, and they prohibit anyone from grilling on the neutral ground or blocking off a space there for a parade.

But neighbors Uptown said the rules weren't uniformly enforced.

"It was like a refugee camp, and then it started looking like Occupy St. Charles with a bunch of college kids hanging out all day, and they had, like, smokers going and grills and you lost sight of what it actually was," said Kristin Hogg, who lives near the Uptown parade route. "And then you didn't really have enough room to let people get by and catch things or even see the parade."

"Usually they don't allow, and I don't understand why they don't have to move everything off the neutral ground so they could clean," said Isenberg. "That's just the way it's always been."

Mayor Mitch Landrieu in a news conference Wednesday said enforcement is at an officer's discretion.

"Common sense, common courtesy, alleviates the need to have an intervention and take a police officer who otherwise needs his eyes on who's got a gun, away from settling disputes between people that common courtesy should try to settle," said Landrieu.

Meanwhile, some wonder whether the rules were enforced uniformly along the parade route. Arnold Young said police asked parade goers to take all tents down and put grills away further down the parade route, in the Lower Garden District, but did not ask revelers to do so several blocks away.

"I have nothing against police, but it's just rough when they demand us to take something down, when right down the street they've got tents, they've got barbeque, the barbecue's smelling good and everything, and our family has to go way down the street because our barbecue grill is way down the street."

Isenberg said she hopes police will enforce rules along the neutral ground throughout the parade route next year.

Landrieu hopes to have a public discussion on the topic before next Carnival season.

The NOPD has not gotten back to Eyewitness News regarding enforcement issues on the neutral ground.