The Austin Chronicle

Naked City

City Council Loves Ozomatli!

By Jordan Smith, April 2, 2004, News

At press time, Austin police were still investigating the March 18 incident outside Exodus that ended with the arrest of two band members and the manager of Los Angeles-based band Ozomatli, despite the overwhelming number of folks who've stepped forward to challenge the "official" version of events. (See "Not Quite 'Ya Se Fue!,'" March 26.) Still, while APD's review slogs on (toward what we're not sure, but are anxious to find out) others at City Hall have begun to extend an olive branch to the Grammy Award-winning band.

In an e-mail response to a concerned Ozo fan, Mayor Will Wynn wrote that he was "disappointed" by what happened, "but my strong suspicion is that this was a classic case of the police not having good information about what was actually happening," before asserting their authority. Austin's got good cops, and the Sixth Street beat is a tough one, Wynn wrote. But, he conceded, "we also have to be as welcoming as possible to visitors and musicians – especially the hip ones like Ozo, and particularly during SXSW."

And in a March 26 e-mail to band manager Amy Sue Blackman-Romero (who was arrested and charged with interfering with police duties while trying to figure out exactly why police were arresting her two band members), Karen Gross, policy director for Council Member Brewster McCracken, asks if the band can swing by the April 22 council meeting at 5:30pm to play a song and receive a proclamation, "pronouncing the date ... Ozomatli Day in Austin ... Brewster would absolutely love" it, and the whole process would take just 10 minutes of the band's time. (They're slated to play a gig that night at La Zona Rosa.) "We're fairly confident that this would create a great news story," she wrote, "if publicity is something you guys are striving for."

Gross notes that McCracken is in the process of crafting an amendment to the city's noise ordinance that would exempt Sixth Street and the Downtown entertainment district during SXSW and the Austin City Limits Festival. "Amy, while you mentioned that you and the band are more concerned about the way you were treated by the police rather than the particulars of the noise ordinance, if there wasn't a noise ordinance to enforce, the police would not have any grounds to do what they did," Gross wrote. "What happened to you is counteractive to what the city is trying to achieve."

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