New Mardi Gras Rules: Racist or Smart?

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The French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana, known for among other things its outrageous Mardi Gras celebrations, has come under the purview of a new city curfew ordinance.

The "buzzkill law," as its being referred to in the Big Easy, has already resulted in almost 200 separate arrests. The terms of the new ordinance require persons under the age of 16 to be accompanied by a guardian at all times in the French Quarter after 8 p.m.

New Orleans Police Commander, Jeffrey Walls cites an unwholesome mix of nudity, booze and violence as the reason for the new restrictions on underage revelers. "We were having kids that were being victims and perpetrators of crimes," said Walls in defense of the law. The curfew is in effect seven days a week - but only in the French Quarter.

Louisianans under the age of 16 can still move about freely without fear of reprisal in the rest of the city. The rest of New Orleans abides an 11 p.m. curfew for kids the same age. The New Orleans City Council passed the ordinance unanimously in January and it hasn't been without its critics, some of whom smell racial undertones.

Opponents argue that the new law applies only to predominantly black neighborhoods where the visibility of poor, black kids is considered a threat to tourism.

Walls insists that it's a public safety issue. "It keeps the kids safe," said Walls. "This is an adult entertainment area. It's not like Disney World. There’s really no reason for kids to be out after 8 o’clock unsupervised."