NEW ORLEANS — When the Mystic Krewe of Nyx paraded in 2020, it was among the largest in Carnival. When it rolls Wednesday night, it will be one of the smallest.
Boasting of more than 3,500 members on 82 floats when it last hit the streets, the parade on Wednesday will be a mere sliver of that, close to the bare minimum of 200 riders and 14 floats needed for a parade permit. The krewe’s website estimates there will be about 240 riders sparsely spread among 17 floats.
The mass exodus of riders was initially sparked when the krewe’s founder and captain, former New Orleans police officer Julie Lea, sent out an Instagram post after the police murder of George Floyd stating “All Lives Matter.”
Many members of the racially diverse all-female krewes were outraged and blasted Lea for being insensitive. Lea tried to apologize, but she refused to embrace the phrase “Black Lives Matter.”
The bad blood only grew from there. Members defected by the hundreds, some of them holding lively complaint sessions on Facebook Live for public consumption. Later, a lawsuit was filed by departing members after the krewe hesitated to issue refunds after they paid in advance for last year's cancelled parade.
Carnival historian Errol Laborde is skeptical that the actual ridership Wednesday night will reach the krewe’s estimates of 240.
“I'm guessing the parade that we're going to see this week would not meet the threshold,” Laborde said. “I think Nyx has dug itself a really, really big hole. And I'm not sure it can dig out of it in the future. So we may be seeing the last of Nyx.”
Vee George, a former Nyx member, said she was crestfallen when the woman she had described as a “close friend” would not change her position in the face of so many members requesting it.
“Unfortunately, it's something that had to be demolished,” George said. “We no longer could be a part of it.”
Controversy follows the krewe to this day. A recent social media post by member Mimi Owens Crouere said she will not be riding Wednesday after many people expressed outrage over her suggestion of throwing beads honoring Robert E. Lee.
“I’m making a simple request,” Crouere posted on Twitter. “Attend Nyx and wear the FLC (Forever Lee Circle) bead. Tell the fringe Left that the silent majority isn’t going to lay down for their whims.”
She later posted, “I’m going to Nyx and that’s all. I’m a member but decided not to ride bc of all the harmful chatter about me and Julie on twitter.”
The krewe's attorney, Doug Sunseri, said any throws honoring Lee or his since-removed statue along the parade route would be a violation of the krewe’s rules prohibiting throws that are political.
But Sunseri said the threats since Crouere’s post have also targeted Lea. However, Lea will not only ride, he said, but will try to rebuild her krewe.
“Julie has received threats, even recently. But she's not going to let that stop her,” Sunseri said. “It's above the noise. It's above the naysayers. It's above all the negative people who can't enjoy Mardi Gras. The main mission is a sisterhood to have a heckuva good time.”
George believes Lea is going to down with a sinking ship.
“I honestly believe the collapse was because that individual was self-serving,” she said.
More than 800 former Nyx members have formed three new krewes – Phoenix, Harmonia and Themis – all of which have joined forces with existing krewe’s in order to parade.
If Nyx is forced to fold, Laborde believes one of those spin-off krewes would be first in line to take its place on the parade calendar.