Nine street preachers using bullhorns to shout antigay messages at participants in New Orleans’s Southern Decadence festival were arrested Saturday evening.
Eight of them were arrested on suspicion of “aggressive solicitation” under a New Orleans ordinance passed last year that prohibits “any person or group of persons to loiter or congregate on Bourbon Street for the purpose of disseminating any social, political or religious message between the hours of sunset and sunrise,” The Times-Picayune reports. The eight were identified as Patrick O’Connell, Rolando Igleasias, Cesar Chavez, Daniel Hoogerhuis, Danny Guevera, Larry Craft, Montes Diego, and Gary Brown.
A ninth man, Justin Craft, was arrested “on suspicion of battery, resisting an officer and interfering with a law enforcement investigation,” according to the newspaper. Craft is accused of striking an officer who tried to confiscate his bullhorn.
Police said the demonstrators ignored a warning not to use bullhorns. A witness said they were using slurs against both gays and victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Religious fundamentalists have often protested the gay festival, which is held annually on Labor Day weekend in the city’s French Quarter. Some of them say the ordinance interferes with their free speech rights. However, LGBT rights activist Leo Watermeier told The Times-Picayune he sees the ordinance as “a genuine effort ... to respect the preachers’ right to free speech while recognizing others’ right to be free from unreasonable harassment.”