It’s beautiful weather in New Orleans right now. I was eating my lunch in Jackson Square today, and trying to finish the last Harry Potter book before the movie comes out. As usual, there are a ton of people in the Square enjoying the day. I noticed a gutterpunk couple sleeping in the sun. They looked comfortable. Dirty, but comfortable.
After a chapter or two, I look up and notice that the woman, who looked to be around 20, is trying to wake her boyfriend(?) up. She’s patting him on the head, poking him, kissing him, pushing him over. There is no response. He feebly rolled over at one point, and I figured he just wanted some more sleep. She kept at him, and he remained motionless. She stood up and tried to drag him, and he didn’t move. I started to get concerned, but I know better than to get involved with gutterpunks, so I just kept watching, waiting for her to look like she wanted help. She never did.
Eventually, she gave up trying to wake him, and walked off towards the front of the Cabildo, where I watched her talk to some of the street people there. She didn’t seem too worried, although I did see her point in the direction of the Square once.
I was torn about what to do. I surely didn’t want to go over to the passed out man in the Square, but I was also worried for him. I didn’t want to read about how a young man overdosed in the middle of Jackson Square and no one noticed. I contemplated calling 911, but didn’t. Eventually, I saw an NOPD officer that I recognized pass by on a Segway on Chartres in front of the Cathedral. I walked over to him and told him that there was a gutterpunk passed out in the Square, and that he didn’t look too good. He said he would check it out. I headed back towards work.
I was intending to go back to work, but my curiosity got the better of me, and I went back into the Square. On my way, I passed the young woman. She was talking to a tourist couple seated on bench and smoking a cigarette. She still didn’t seem too concerned about her companion.
I got back to the center of the Square, and watched the cop approach the man. He tapped him with his foot to wake him, but got no response. He nudged him harder and spoke louder, and eventually the gutterpunk started coming too. Then he lunged for the cops knees and tackled him. They rolled on the grass for a bit, but the officer quickly subdued the man and called his partner over. As he handcuffed him, the gutterpunk was wailing “No!” and “Please, baby!” The cops were rough with him, I think deservedly so. They never swung at him, but they did forcefully keep his head to the ground with their knees until he was handcuffed. It was not pleasant to watch, knowing that I started it. Eventually more cops showed up and he was taken in. His girlfriend talked to the cops for a bit, but was told to go away. She collected their things and walked off.
I really felt bad about the whole thing. I knew he was going to get arrested if I told the cops about him. I also knew that if I went over there myself, nothing was going to come of it. I didn’t want him to get hurt, but I also didn’t want him to OD in the Square. I’ve also been harassed enough by gutterpunks (you’re an easy target when you are young and wear a coat and tie in the French Quarter) to not really want to see them around. I’m sure some are great people. But my experience tells me that many are hostile, intimidating, and rude to everyone who doesn’t live by their philosophy of life. I don’t wish them ill, I just wish they were nicer to strangers.
So, to the gutterpunk that I helped get arrested today in Jackson Square, I’m sorry.