New Orleans says gunfire won't end 'second lines'

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - New Orleans officials and cultural advocates say the Mother's Day parade shootings that left 20 people injured won't spell the end of second-line parades, the local tradition that celebrates the city and its people.

Police this week arrested two brothers and charged them with 20 counts each of attempted second-degree murder. They're accused of firing into a second-line parade, scattering the crowd and wounding 19 with gunfire. One person was hurt fleeing the chaos.

In a second-line parade, watchers of a street procession of brass band musicians and elaborately clad marchers often join in, forming a "second line" of marchers.

Second-line parades have been around for generations as part of Mardi Gras and other holiday celebrations, and are perhaps best known as a feature of the city's famed jazz funerals.

The May 12 Mother's Day march was sponsored by the Original Big 7 Social Aid and Pleasure Club, and president Edward Buckner said they will re-stage it June 1 through the same neighborhood in New Orleans' 7th Ward. They also plan to return next Mother's Day, he said.

Buckner said the kind of violence that happened May 12 can't be allowed to destroy such a unique tradition.

"These parades are for the people of New Orleans," he said at a rally held at the shooting site. "We won't let the streets beat us." Fred Johnson, president of the Black Men of Labor Social Aid and Pleasure Club, said he fully supports the Big 7's plans.

"I would do the same thing," he said. "Organizers of the Boston Marathon said they plan to put on next year's marathon bigger and stronger. We can't succumb to these types of actions. We can't allow our freedoms in a city to get taken over by any kind of terrorist, local or otherwise." Johnson rejected the notion of doing away with the parades.

"You can't hold the Big 7 hostage because of what someone else did," he said. "If a shooting happens at a carnival parade, no one is saying to end those. Let's be fair and square across the board. Eradicating a second line would be like me saying we won't have Rex on carnival. That's just not gonna happen. People come here from all over the world to embrace the city and the music played in the spirit of Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong."

Second-line parades have also been featured in major motion pictures. One such procession in the French Quarter shows up in early segments of the 1973 James Bond film Live And Let Die. "Second lines are an amazing part of our culture and we support them," Mayor Mitch Landrieu has said.

Bruce Raeburn, curator of the Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane University, said any suggestion that second lines attract violence is invalid, as well.

"The reason occasional violence occurs is because of the crowd situation," Raeburn said. "The crowd usually serves as cover for those who want to do violence the same as with Mardi Gras or the Bayou Classic.

"It's the invaders to these events, the people who show up with guns, who use the second line as an opportunity to settle some scores. Those gunmen took out the hate they felt for society on the people at the second line. The second line is the victim here. Don't blame the victim."

In custody for last week's shooting are 24-year-old Shawn Scott and 19-year-old Akein Scott. Each is being held on US$10 million (S$12.6 million) bond. Five others were arrested as accessories to the alleged crimes for allegedly helping the suspects avoid capture.

Motives for the shootings have not been given, but police said the shootings were believed to be drug-related and that the Scott brothers are thought to be members of a gang called the Frenchmen and Derbigny Boys.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.