For around 9 years our home was in “the ARK,” a community arts warehouse at 511 Marigny St. in the Faubourg Marigny.
Alas, our existence & the fact we allowed (and welcomed) homeless people was a longtime aggravation to the insane, violent and provably corrupt leadership of the wildly mis-named “Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association.”
The Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association is a hilarious handful of deluded and pompous z-grade autocrats, deranged aging vain maniacs who, when they aren’t drunkenly assaulting and suing one-another over their mind-numbing internal feuds, aggressively seek to shut-down and control anything in the ‘hood that doesn’t EXCLUSIVELY cater to their curdled, ossified white wealthy “liberal” tastes… a toothless, grotesquely irrelevant Boutique Bohemia that begins and ends with Jimmy Buffet and Kokopelli.
The fact the Rail provided free coffee, clothing & reading material for some of the 15,000+ members of our city’s homeless underclass– hell, the fact we allowed people to smoke cigarettes outside our doorway– was intolerable to the FMIA.
They cried about us for YEARS to the police, to city council, to their private totem spirits of gentrification and San Francisco gated-community whiteness… and finally, just after Mardi Gras 2011, the NOPD came and shut us down. Because NOPD’s 5th District are basically heavily armed circus clowns on coke, rampaging tinpot illiterates whose understanding of the law is equivalent to a 2nd-grader’s grasp of human sexuality, the raid itself was wildly illegal. The pigs stormed in and demanded the Rail show a business license. By “law” we are supposed to have 10 days to comply with this request, but when the volunteer present didn’t know where the document was located, the NOPD ordered everyone in the entire building (including the bike shop and the artists living upstairs, none of whom had nothing to do with the Iron Rail) to evacuate, permanently and immediately !! Ha ha, oh NOPD, u so third-world.
There is loose talk that the shutdown was connected somehow to the Fifth District’s attack on the Eris parade, but it’s just loose talk. While the Iron Rail supports all victims of police violence, the Eris parade is basically apolitical arty types, not “anarchists.” They spend their free time making glorious elaborate costumes; we spend ours keeping afloat an all-volunteer community literary project. Priorities!
So we got shut down. We’ve always had good relationships with our landlords, and in this case, it was clear that the Rail being in 511 Marigny was imperiling all the other people and projects there. It was time to move on. Thanks to a huge groundswell of support from the community, we were able to re-open just 2 months later in a new and more prestigious location: 503 Barracks in the French Quarter.
Alas, we do not have room in our new shop space for our library, or for the kinds of community meetings, film screenings, couch-loungings etc. that were such a part of our old 511 Marigny space. Our search for a larger location, one that can host our glorious library collection, is ongoing… please drop us a line if you have any leads!
(As of November, our former building has been emptied and is becoming more condos, just like the condos where the pickled and embittered old FMIA ghouls who once persecuted us live. This is called “progress.” )
And that more or less concludes the story of the Great Shutdown. If we didn’t have such a committed and tireless cadre of volunteers and such widespread community support, we never would have survived.
Below are archived updates from the Great Shutdown. These previously appeared on the main page… the top update is the most recent.
June 4, 2011
The new Iron Rail at 503 Barracks St. is now wheelchair accessible.
We also have a phone number: 504-38-DEATH (33284).
May 27th, 2011, via Nola Anarcha:
80 days after the NOPD broke its own laws to evict the Iron Rail from its location in the ARC at 511 Marigny, New Orleans’ only anarchist bookstore and library has returned…but this time the black flag has unfurled in the French Quarter!Yesterday the Iron Rail opened its doors onto 503 Barracks next to Decatur, across the street from local coffee shop Envie’s, and next door to our friends at Gnome and Riot Supply Co. Well into the night food and wine was served and art displayed. Old and new faces streamed in and out of the boutique as folks celebrated the new space and satiated their suppressed appetites for rebellious readings.
Continuing its commitment to social struggle through providing radical literature, culture and politics to New Orleans, the Iron Rail will resume its round-the-week schedule everyday from 12 to 6. Come one, come all and check out the new space!
May 20, 2011 Update:
Like the distributaries fanning out into the Mississippi Delta below us, when the Iron Rail was closed, it merely meant a thousands little Iron Rail sprouts would spring up around the city.
And alas, they have. The Iron Rail’s newest distributary is a new bookstore space in the French Quarter that will be opening before the end of May!
The freshly painted walls and inviting collective-member staffers will draw you into our rivulet of anarchy in the F.Q., and you will leave with free information on all things radical in New Orleans, books about the most interesting things you’ve ever heard of in your life, and a new source of cosmic inspiration to continue living.
Eventually, we are confident that our stream will carve out a Grand Canyon of anarchy in the French Quarter, and we’ll then open the Iron Rail White Water Rafting Trip collective.
So stay tuned shortly for precise information about our new water spout of radicalism.
Library Update: the Iron Rail lending library distributary is still looking for the perfect locale to re-open at (giving us multiple locations of influence in the city: see, we multiply!), but it is making headway and will delight all with it’s own Grand Canyon of anarchy very soon!
Missing the Iron Rail already? No worries kid, come find us at one of the many MUSIC SHOWS WE ARE TABLING. Plus, return Iron Rail library materials (please) to the convenient Iron Rail Drop Box inside Gerken’s Bikes, 2703 Saint Claude Ave.
Meanwhile, your eyes do not deceive. Responding to an unusually moist climate of repression, “Donate” buttons have sprung up on the site like tacky yellow toadstools.
If you want to help the Gulf Coast’s oldest infoshop get back on its shapely feet, then please, kick us some cash.
The Iron Rail and its predecessor, Crescent Wrench Books, have been around for yonks– decades, literally– and despite being old as dirt we’ve remained every bit as open, informal and politically far-out as we ever were. The Iron Rail is one of the only institutions of its kind; certainly the only anarchist collective-run bookstore/library between Houston and Florida. Can you, gentle reader, spare us some love… by which we, being New Orleanian, mean some MONEY ???
and oh yeah p.s. I know the media is just gonna say whatever but PLEASE… no individual and no ad-hoc group speaks for the Rail. Only the Iron Rail collective speaks for the Iron Rail, and being a deliberative consensus-based body we tend to take our sweet time doing so. The collective has to date only released one (preliminary) statement about our closing and isn’t granting media interviews at the moment. THUS: If you don’t see it here or on our facebook or some other clearly rail-approved organ then it is not the Rail and we don’t co-sign it. Sure SUCKS REALLY BAD that we have to make this distinction, but there ya go. Also, The Iron Rail book collective has exactly nothing to do with Eris OR even Plan B (besides obviously being neighborly with the latter), and anybody saying otherwise probably has a fucked-up if not sinister agenda.
Well, as of Ash Wednesday 2011 we got shut down, along with Plan B Bicycles, Hasbin Willbys, and the other grassroots, not-for-profit community resources the ARK provided New Orleans.
The Iron Rail was the first library or bookstore to reopen after the failure of the federal levees. Our weekly meetings were always open to all, even our enemies. We worked without pay, and we enjoyed every minute of it. We’re not finished yet.
But the ARK, the crown jewel of the Marigny, is gone. Mourn the ARK. It was a focal point of the downtown arts scene for decades– it was a crucial piece of the city’s creative fabric– and now NOPD has shut it down, just like they shut down the Blue Nile costume sale, just like they arrested brass bands last year, just like they attacked the parade of Eris.