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Local Hare Krishna group will reconsider its aggressive Party Patrol tactics

The Party Patrol may have handed out its last fake citation for “failure to smile” or “walking with a pretty girl.”

A member of the Food for Life Party Patrol, right, issues a "citation" on Bourbon Street. (photo by Tracie Morris Schafer)

Efforts to clamp down on questionable solicitors in the French Quarter have brought increased scrutiny on the New Orleans chapter of the Hare Krishna organization, forcing them to rethink their methods.

Food for Life of New Orleans regulations prohibit references to police, tickets, citations, arrests or any other law enforcement jargon to stop pedestrians. Jon Kaufman, director of FFLNO, said they are “reviewing whether the Party Patrol slogan falls under this guideline.”

The Party Patrol is the solicitation arm of Food for Life of New Orleans, a charitable food relief program run by the International Society for Krishna Consciousness of New Orleans on Esplanade Avenue.

“(The attention) has provoked a sort of cleansing,” said John Berg, a member of FFLNO’s board of directors. “I believe they’re on the course of eliminating the Party Patrol. If people are taking this the wrong way, it’s not something we want to be associated with.”

The Party Patrol typically operates at the intersection of Bourbon and Iberville streets. The volunteers approach tourists, claiming they have violated a made-up law, such as “failing to have a good time.” They write fake tickets and say the only way to resolve the issue is to buy a Party Patrol hat for $10 or more.

It’s the most effective way to get the attention of tourists who are barraged by “clowns, musicians, acrobats, tap dancers and restaurant and club barkers,” Kaufman said.

Kaufman refused to be interviewed but in a series of emails he wrote that Food for Life and the Hare Krishna of New Orleans have “tolerated decades of bigoted and ignorant abuse from the likes of strip club owners, salacious souvenir hawkers and other morally questionable profiteers who prey on the public in their own inimitable ways.”

He called Robert Watters, owner of Rick’s Cabaret and president of the Bourbon Street Merchants Association, a “modern day Scrooge who would rather snarl and foam then visit FFL’s facility to see what really goes on.”

“There are a few business people who simply do not like us due to their competitive jealousies. They harass us, harass our donors, cat call and even threaten us physically,” Kaufman wrote.

French Quarter residents and business owners, however, accuse the Party Patrol of harassing and intimidating tourists while pretending to be a quasi-official security organization.

To address these concerns, a group of citizens that includes Watters formed an association called New Orleans Seizing Control Against Misrepresentation, or NOSCAM, and have drafted an ordinance to reign in the activities of people soliciting donations in the French Quarter and Central Business District, which is scheduled to be introduced before the city council Thursday.

The proposal requires organizations to register with the city and provide financial documents to prove the money raised is being used for the stated charitable intent. It also regulates the time and location they can operate and prohibits aggressive behavior.

The ordinance is based on similar legislation passed in Minneapolis, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Mobile, Ala.

One of the most serious allegations against Food for Life New Orleans is that they make false claims regarding the recipients of their fundraising efforts.

The front page of the FFLNO website touts its relationship with Covenant House and Bridge House, but the heads of both nonprofits said they do not presently receive donations from Food for Life and do not want their names to be affiliated with the organization.

Kaufman admits that Covenant House no longer receives food and said members of the Party Patrol on Bourbon Street who claimed donations would go toward the youth shelter were mistaken and would not do so again.

James Kelly, executive director of Covenant House, said he would insist their name is removed from the site.

As for Bridge House, Kaufman said there might be some confusion. The food donations to the substance abuse treatment facility could have been made on behalf of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness of New Orleans, not specifically from Food for Life.

Else Pedersen-Wasson, executive director of Bridge House, said she knows the two groups are connected and severed ties with them more than a year ago. She said she will send a letter to Kaufman reaffirming the end of their relationship.

The tone of Kaufman’s response to the attention placed on the Party Patrol and his attacks on New Orleans business owners did not sit well with Maharani Berg, wife of John Berg and a member of Food for Life Gulf Coast.

She believes there are people who fraudulently pose as FFL representatives who might be responsible for many of the complaints, but on a recent trip to New Orleans, Maharani Berg said she spoke to a woman who claimed to have been “cursed out” by a member of the Party Patrol.

“They can ask people for donations but you can’t threaten people and wear all that ‘Party Pooper’ stuff and make people feel intimidated. The people of New Orleans have been very tolerant about this, and it’s about time something is done, whether it’s regulated or stopped,” Maharani Berg said.

In an Aug. 15 posting on the Food for Life Global website, director Paul Turner wrote that the group has a clear policy prohibiting street solicitations which he “abhors” because “it is impossible to monitor and therefore presents an opportunity for exploitation by unscrupulous people.” His statement on the site’s homepage is in direct response to reports on the activities of the Party Patrol in New Orleans.

Food for Life New Orleans is not affiliated with Food for Life Global, which is based in Maryland, and any unauthorized use of the name Food for Life Global or Hare Krishna Food for Life should be reported to the police, Turner wrote.

“It is a sad state of affairs when individuals try to take advantage of the good will of unsuspecting people,” Turner’s statement on the FFL Global website reads.

Despite the Party Patrol controversy, many say Food for Life of New Orleans provides an invaluable service. Tom Pepper, director of Common Ground Relief, said they have received donated vegetarian meals from Food for Life since 1987, helping to feed at times hundreds of volunteers a week.

Brett Rushing, communications director for the Big Easy Church on Ursulines Avenue, said Food for Life provides weekly donations that feed up to 50 homeless people.

“They’re a pleasure to work with. They are very nice people,” Rushing said.
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  1. I am a Krishna devotee. I was born into a Hindu family and have worshipped Lord Krishna my whole life. I also frequent and worship in Iskcon Temples on a regular basis. In my experience most devotees are upstanding genuinely religious, honest people. Stil, as I think is true with any Church, there are corrupt, pseudo-spiritualists that give religion a bad name. Unfortunately Iskcon leaders accomodate these type people also.These people will lie, cheat and steal or do anything to satisfy themselves and they are also “members” of Iskcon. Sadly I think the leadership of the society has turned a blind eye to the situation. I can only hope things change in the near future. Maybe negative reporting like this will wake them up.

  2. Very harsh words, Ram. You should have verified evidence before making wild accusations. How do you presume to know the motives of Iskcon leaders? Do you know who are legitimate members and who are acting outside of the organization’s authority? Do you know that there are individuals impersonating bona fide charities and organizations on the city streets. That is where the focus should be. Not with Iskcon, whose record for good works in NO is impressive.

  3. Dasi you need to pull your head out of the sand. Iskcon was taken over years ago by a rouge leadership and things have been degrading from there for the last 30+ years. All you have to do is go online and do a little research to find out the REAL truth. How do i know you might ask? ,FYI i’m was a member of the “original ” Iskcon back in the day and todays organization is nothing like it was back then.

  4. B. Radha-Govinda Swami

    Dasi, I agree with trip D; that you need to wake up. I’ve also been in Ithe “original” ISKCON and the people in charge – the GBC – hijacked and ruined it. Yad yad acarati sresthas… People on the “bottom” saw what the people on “top” were doing, and followed. Srila Prabhupada NEVER condoned this nonsense of lying and cheating people like this. And ITS A CON has become a movement (in general) of liars and cheaters though, like Ram prabhu said, there are some VERY GOOD, HONEST practitioners.

  5. When I was in New Orleans a few years ago ,the Hare Krishnas was also feeding the hard working police officers and undercover police during Mardi Grass at the main police station down town,,keep it up Hare Krsnas

  6. Seems more like the Internet ritvik patrol, which by the way only exists on the Internet safely behind there screens coming up with some more vial dirt sheet tirade.
    Get a life! A spirtual life and get on with it. Worry about being a pure devottee like Prabhupada preached.
    As for the party patrol and these hard working souls who work day in and day out on the street to fund, true spirtual welfare work! You have my upmost respect. Everyone can see the food going out, and smiles and fun being had on the street. Let the whiners whine as most are not happy without creating drama, quarrel and Hypocrisy! You guys are the best! Keep on Keeping On! Hare Krishna!

  7. Hare Krishna All glories to Prabhupada! I agree with HareRama. The ISKCON devotees should be aloud to continue with their harmless fundraising activities in the tourist district. Yes, ISKCON has had it’s ups and downs since our dear spiritual master and Founder Acharya His Divine Grace Srila Prabhupada left the planet in 1977 but all in all things are still going on as he ordained for our ISKCON back in 1965. Envious people will criticize and fault find but the books are being distributed, prasadam is distributed everyday, the Sunday feast is still there, The Supreme Lord is worshiped with oppulence, Prabhupada guru-puja is going on, Bhagavatam class is going on and Hare Krsna is still the maha-mantra being chanted along with ecstatic dancing the way Lord Caitanya did 500 years ago. Haters will hate but our ISKCON movement will never die. It is as vibrant as ever. Just like Krsna you will need the salve of love to see it. GOLOKERA PREMA DANA HARINAMA SANKIRTANA! Vijayate Sri Krsna Sankirtana!

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