This story is being continuously updated here, including video linking an ominous protest at Brennan’s Restaurant to a marxist-anarchist commune with a record of criminal behavior.
It was a beautiful Friday night in downtown New Orleans, the kind of warm, inviting spring evening the locals typically describe in answer to tourist complaints about the oppressive heat and humidity of a South Louisiana summer. And as the soft river breeze permeated the convention district, buoyant conservatives attending the 2010 Southern Republican Leadership Conference ambled in and out of the conference’s venue, the Hilton New Orleans Hotel Riverside.
The city had 4,000 attendees of SRLC in town, and untold thousands more for the French Quarter Fest, an up-and-coming music festival at which such acts as Kermit Ruffins, Rockin’ Dopsie, the Radiators and the Rebirth Brass Band were set to perform. The all-important New Orleans tourist industry, hit hard in recent years for a number of reasons, had a chance to take a large step forward with an eye toward landing major events to add to the 2012 Final Four – including the 2012 Republican Convention, for which a bid is being prepared.
It looked like a great weekend was on the horizon for the Big Easy, a town on its way back from the hell of Katrina some four and a half years in the past. The city had momentum and, relatively, unity – after all, its beloved New Orleans Saints had come from decades of ignominy to capture the Super Bowl. And Louisiana Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu had captured an amazing 65 percent of the vote in the mayoral election first primary earlier in the spring, offering New Orleans hope that it would find improved leadership after eight long years under the incompetent and divisive Ray Nagin.
But in a pattern so often repeated in its history, what was supposed to be a showpiece weekend for New Orleans became anything but. Violence and controversy would come to overshadow what were otherwise a successful convention and music festival.
That Friday evening, a battle was being prepared. While the Republican Party was planning a $10,000-a-plate fundraiser at one of the city’s legendary French Quarter restaurants hosted by Governors Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Rick Perry of Texas, a group of students, community activists and Marxist revolutionaries plotted a half-mile “second line” march from Lafayette Park to the Hilton Riverside in an effort to protest Jindal’s planned budget cuts in healthcare and education amid the state’s billion-dollar deficit. And while the initial protest outside the convention venue was relatively tame and unremarkable aside from a torrent of profanity in both signs and intonations, more was to come.
The published plans for the protest called for the march to terminate at the Hilton. But some of the organizers had a different agenda, one which steered their group straight for the high-end Republican affair – and what increasingly appears to have resulted in one of the more shocking examples of political violence in recent American history.
The Jindal/Barbour/Perry fundraiser was set at Brennan’s, a famous Royal Street eatery. The contingent of left-wing protestors who made the trip from the Hilton became increasingly vocal and unpleasant upon arriving at the restaurant, to such an extent that even innocent passersby found themselves verbally assaulted.
And some three hours after the trio of Republican governors had departed, 25-year old Alexandra “Allee” Bautsch, a rising star on Jindal’s team in charge of fundraising efforts for his 2011 re-election campaign, and her boyfriend, 28-year old Joe Brown, left Brennan’s on the way to Brown’s car. Two blocks from the restaurant on St. Louis Street, the pair was accosted by a group of three to five men who made “derogatory” comments and, when Brown turned to face the assailants, he was beaten repeatedly – suffering a concussion and multiple injuries to his face. Bautsch fell during the melee, breaking her leg and requiring surgery, though it’s not yet known whether she was pushed or struck by the attackers.
While Hayride sources and others insist that Bautsch and Brown’s attackers bore some relationship to the Brennan’s protestors, Jindal administration spokesman Kyle Plotkin denies that the governor’s staff has any evidence to that effect so far. The investigation of the attack had, as of Monday afternoon, borne little fruit – the New Orleans Police, dealing with a weekend outbreak of violence that saw no less than 18 people shot in incidents unrelated to SRLC throughout the city from Friday to Monday, don’t appear to have many good leads as to who the assailants were in the Brennan’s case and are begging the public for help.
It’s possible the attack was unrelated to the protest outside Brennan’s. It’s also possible the attack was not politically motivated. But given that Bautsch, who lost her purse before she arrived at the hospital, had it and was using it as a pillow as she lay on the street awaiting medical assistance, it does not at this time appear to have been a mugging. The repeated blows suffered by Brown during the attack are inconsistent with a random crime; whoever attacked the pair did so with a purpose and were apparently unafraid of being caught in the act. The hallmarks of a hate crime appear to have been met.
The story is still developing. But while the investigation continues, it is worth noting that research into the organizers of the overall protest uncovers a rather malevolent group of self-described anarchists who are anything but shy about a desire to destroy the capitalist system a gathering of Republicans would wish to celebrate. The central organizers of the second-line march appear to have come from an anarchist commune of sorts called the Iron Rail Book Collective, which calls itself “committed to anarchist, anti-authoritarian, feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive and class-conscious politics, and to providing alternative literature and information to the people of New Orleans.” And members of Iron Rail have boasted of vandalizing banks, studying an infamous Marxist revolutionary guide called “The Coming Insurrection” and, over the weekend, causing “tons of direct confrontation. New Orleans bared its teeth and snarled, and the rich plutocrats shat themselves in fear.”
Given the existence of a revolutionary element at the heart of the protests and the character of the attack on Bautsch and Brown, the guess is that when the case is finally cracked, the word on the street indicating the Brennan’s beatdown was an example of political violence not unlike that suffered by Tea Party protestor Kenneth Gladney in St. Louis last year will be vindicated. And if that vindication comes, it may be time for the Left-dominated mainstream media – which has to date proven itself utterly incurious about the attack – to answer for creating a narrative suggesting that politically-motivated hatred and violence operates predominantly on only one side of the aisle.