NEW ORLEANS — A little more than a week after a video of New Orleans police officers arresting a trumpet player on Frenchmen Street went viral, with many calling the action heavy-handed since the musician was pinned to the ground, the NOPD released body camera footage from one of its officers that Superintendent Shaun Ferguson said explains the tactics.
The Facebook Live video that sparked the NOPD’s response was posted a little before 10 p.m. on July 8. It has now been viewed nearly 60,000 times and spurred news coverage across the nation.
Watch the body camera footage below (Can't see the video? Click here)
The video shows officers pinning Eugene Grant swing his trumpet at an officer, knocking their body camera to the ground, and then being pinned to the ground as the crowd around him grows angrier with each passing second.
Some of the anger is directed toward Frenchmen Art and Books, which called police on the band. Officers reportedly asked the band to move, when the confrontation suddenly escalated.
Grant was booked on charges including obstructing public passages and resisting an officer. A Municipal Court judge tossed out the charges the morning after he was arrested.
Grant, who is developmentally disabled, told WWL-TV after leaving the courthouse the bookstore’s new owners have complained recently about the Young Fellaz Brass Band playing on the corner, a spot they have reportedly performed on for almost a decade.
David Zalkind, the store’s owner, has not responded to a request for comment from WWL but told WWNO-FM after the arrest that he and the band agreed to a time limit of 45 minutes a night when the band could play in front of his door. But, he said, the band began to take more time.
“What happened last night it the culmination of a series of conversations that have occurred over the last four months, which prompted me to finally call the police,” Zalkind told WWNO. “As of two weeks ago, I was just fed up with it.”
According to a statement from the NOPD, officers arrived and asked the band to leave.
"At that time ... Grant struck one of the officers in the chest with his instrument, damaging the officer's body-worn camera,” the statement reads in part. “After striking the officer with his instrument, Grant refused repeated requests by both officers and citizens to calm down, forcing the officers to detain Grant until backup arrived."
Ethan Ellestad, a founding member of the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans, wrote in an opinion piece published by The Lens that there is now a culture clash on Frenchmen Street as the once-sleepy strip becomes more saturated with tourists and business, but he also took exception with the NOPD’s response.
“There are a number of issues at play here — overly aggressive policing of people of color, young black men in particular; insufficient training on how to work with individuals with special needs (Eugene has been diagnosed as autistic); a lack of crowd control and de-escalation techniques used by law enforcement; gentrification of the city by individuals who do not respect or understand New Orleans traditional culture; and, of particular relevance, the long standing criminalization of New Orleans’ street and neighborhood cultural traditions,” Ellestad wrote in part.
Supporters of Grant have organized a second-line and rally on Sunday. It’s set to begin at 2 p.m. at Washington Artillery Park across from Jackson Square and end in the 600 block of Frenchmen.
Following the release of the footage on Friday, New Orleans Councilwoman for District "C" Kristin Palmer released the following statement, saying she was eager to improve mediation techniques for what she called a "long-standing problem."
"The incident on Frenchmen Street last Monday raises great concerns and creates a sense of urgency to try to resolve this long-standing problem in that area. I look forward to working closely with the Administration, and am confident that our combined leadership will bring an inclusive and collective process. My office is proactively developing a plan of mediation to move forward collaboratively which will include several meetings beginning next week, a roundtable discussion to establish better guidelines, and creating balance and respect for all stakeholders involved."