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Did The New Orleans Mayor Violate a Mardi Gras Ordinance?

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On Sunday, February 6th, Mayor LaToya Cantrell reigned as the Grand Marshal of the Tremé Sidewalk Steppers’ second line parade, and may have violated a city law.

Grand Marshal LaToya “Teedy” Cantrell rode on a float throwing personalized carnival cups to parade goers. Political throws have been banned for decades, yet the mayor was represented on cups which displayed her likeness, her nickname “TEEDY,” and “MAYOR LATOYA CANTRELL.”

The city of New Orleans’ “Code of Ordinances” governs carnival parades and second lines, with the intention to preserve New Orleans’ original cultural traditions. The rules of the city’s Mardi Gras Task Force include:

Sec. 34-28. (b) – “Prohibited throws. No Mardi Gras parade participant shall knowingly throw any doubloon, trinket or other throw which would be redeemable for or entitle the bearer to a prize or a discount on the price of any food, beverage, merchandise, service or admission to any event or which displays, conveys or communicates any commercial, political or religious message.”

This was a way to prevent the greatest free show on earth from being commercialized, and would keep politicians from politicizing the city’s biggest cultural contribution to the world. You know, like a Californian riding in a parade and throwing cups that displayed her likeness and identifying her political position. The Times Picayune once quoted the city’s attorney’s office saying, “The prohibition is aimed at stopping electioneering during parades.”

NOLA.com recently wrote two pieces about “political” throws, effectively condemning a highly rare practice.

“The Mayor’s Mardi Gras Advisory Committee is composed of float parade representatives and parade-related city officials, including the Police Department. … Co-chair James Reiss III, a representative of the Rex organization, warned against the tossing of “illegal/political” throws, perhaps heading off incidents of recent years such as distributing Confederate flag beads or beads advocating the preservation of the Robert E. Lee monument in New Orleans.”

NOLA.com’s Doug MacCash decided to make a guess as to what the Rex organization official commented on, “Perhaps heading off incidents…” and inserted the Confederate battle flag and Forever Lee Circle beads, despite the official not identifying either of those items. Reiss’ actual statement on the matter was, “Illegal throws or political throws–no offensive throws should be thrown off any float. We’ve got people from all over the world, this is fairly obvious this is not an event where politics belongs.”

It comes as no surprise that Lee Circle beads would be singled out by the media outlet. No one would expect NOLA.com to mention rainbow or LGTBQ themed throws which are also as political as a government that lasted from 1861-1865 or beads commemorating a controversially removed historic monument. MacCash would never condemn BLM throws either.

But if the city’s governing body over carnival has laws on the books about political throws, and the Mayor’s Mardi Gras Advisory Committee specifically said politics do not belong on floats, and the mayor distributed “Mayor LaToya Cantrell” cups, will the mayor be called in to address her actions, will she face a penalty, or will she be allowed to operate outside of the law?



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