NEW ORLEANS – Mimi Owens, who runs a Facebook group called “Forever Lee Circle,” has been banned for life from riding with the Krewe of Freret.
Owens rode as the guest of a member of the Legion of Mars veterans group when the Krewe rolled down the Uptown parade route on February 23, according to Krewe of Freret captain Bobby Hjortsberg.
Hjortsberg said Owens violated a city ordinance when she threw beads advertising her group, which advocates for the replacement of the statues of Confederate leaders at locations across the city, starting with the statue of Robert E. Lee.
“They are prohibited throws,” Hjortsberg said. “First of all, we obviously ban them, as a Krewe, but you can’t throw any politically related items according to the municipal ordinance. There are several reasons why that’s not allowed.”
While the ordinance extends to throws affiliated with any and all political positions, Hjortsberg said this particular political position is in direct opposition to the standards and beliefs of the Krewe.
“It was particularly troubling that these beads were thrown,” he said. “When we found out they existed last year, we were very adamant about them not being thrown. There’s just no place for this in Mardi Gras.”
Owens said that she was a guest of a group that was a guest of the Krewe of Freret, and that none of the paperwork that she signed before stepping foot on the float had “Freret” on it.
“It’s really interesting to me that I get a lifetime ban from an organization that I was never a member of,” Owens said. “I was not riding in Freret, and I was never a member of Freret, and I never had any intention of riding in Freret. I am not a Freret person.”
Owens disputes that the Forever Lee Circle beads that she threw are political in any way, and says the Krewe is misinterpreting the city ordinance, which she says has to do with politicians campaigning for office advertising themselves with Mardi Gras throws.
“The bead itself is not political,” Owens said. “What they’re doing to the bead is making it political.”
The real problem, Owens said, is the “group thought” that has permeated members of the public who contacted the Krewe of Freret to complain that the beads in question had offended them.
“They have parade goers standing, literally taking stock of who’s throwing what, who’s doing what,” Owens said. “I mean, they were like narcing on people.”
The complaints have ranged from reports of unlawful behavior by riders to reports of parade goers being offended by throws, Owens said, and often involve incorrect float numbers.
“You know how dangerous that is?” Owens said. “Somebody who is not involved is going to find themselves in a situation because of the Brownshirts on the ground trying to arbiter what is disrespectful and what is racist and what isn’t.”
Owens said she considers the people at parades who report on “everything that they find racist on the ground” to be “the same as the Brownshirts who then narc and turn people in.”
In a Facebook post on the Forever Lee Circle page, Owens claims to have spoken to members of the Freret family itself.
“Had a really nice conversation with a member of the Freret family for which the original Krewe of Freret is named for,” Owens wrote. “Lets just say they weren’t offended by my Mardi Gras throws and I may have sent a bead their way.”
However, Hjortsberg said the Krewe of Freret stands diametrically opposed to Owens’ movement.
“We are, arguably, the most gender and racially diverse Mardi Gras Krewe that parades in New Orleans, and for someone to use our parade to exercise their own political agenda, it’s just not going to be tolerated, especially when that political agenda is as offensive as these monuments are and these particular beads are to people,” Hjortsberg said. “There’s no need for it, and it’s not welcome in our organization.”