Thousands Gather At Jackson Square To Rally For Justice, Equity And Defunding The Police
On the eighth consecutive day of protests in New Orleans in response to the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, thousands of people filled Decatur Street and the blocks around Jackson Square.
Speakers addressed the huge crowd from the top of the stairs at Washington Artillery Park for nearly three hours as drones and helicopters flew overhead. In closing, they somberly walked down to the banks of the Mississippi River for a moment of silence in a scene that stood in stark contrast to the violent protests that have played out in other cities across the country.
Ahead of the rally, the city was abuzz with rumors that the group would remove the Andrew Jackson monument, which has been a goal of Take ‘Em Down NOLA’s for years. Former President Jackson enslaved people and forcibly removed thousands of Native Americans from their ancestral homeland. While Jackson Square generally closes to the public at 6 p.m., this afternoon the NOPD reminded the public on Twitter that the park would be closed.
Organizers indicated that they would continue to fight to have the statue removed. Michael Moore, a poet and educator known as A Scribe Called Quess?, pointed to the statue as he spoke.
“We know that we cannot exist in a place of justice and equity for black and brown and marginalized and oppressed people if we are raising up our boys and girls to look at symbols that represent a system that is against them,” he said.
Speakers reiterated many of the points they made during rallies throughout the week: that black people in America disproportionately experience poverty, poor health, poor education and other forms of systemic discrimination. They called for fair living wages and a restructuring of society around values that elevate human rights and mutual aid, rather than corporate profits.
“Capitalism is anti-black,” Take ‘Em Down NOLA organizer Angela Kinlaw said. “White supremacy is used as a tool to keep us from turning our attention to the system of capitalist exploitation that divides us.”
She reiterated demands laid out earlier this week. They want the police to be accountable to the people through subpoena power. They want the city to spend more on job development and assistance for children and families, and less on policing.
“Flip the budget!” she demanded.
A different group, meanwhile, handed our fliers for a rally on June 17 at Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s home in Broadmoor to demand paid sick leave, living wages and protection for essential workers.
Speakers placed a particular emphasis on advocating for black transgender and non-gender conforming people, who are frequently the victims of violence.
“If we turn our backs on our trans siblings, then we too, are part of the problem,” Kinlaw said.
At one point, sun still illuminating the plaza, Kinlaw addressed the crowd while holding up a large gold sheriff’s star and demanded to know who had thrown it at one of the speakers. People pointed to a white man near the front of the crowd.
“White allies who know your place right now, find your place!” Kinlaw said. “Black people, move back!”
White people encircled the man and escorted him out of the crowd as Kinlaw called repeatedly for calm.
Kinlaw pointed to the incident as an example of the kind of community policing that could replace police departments.
“We are building the world we want right now!” she said. “This is our community, this is our space. We don’t need the police.”
Perhaps addressing online rumors that people intended to use bricks to destroy property, Kinlaw said she was not concerned: “This effort right here is for self-determination for black people, because when black people win, we all win.”
The crowd took a moment of silence and held up fists to honor Breonna Taylor, the black woman who was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police Department officers, and who would have turned 27 today.
After hours of speeches, songs, poetry and spoken word, Kinlaw directed the crowd for a moment of silence on the banks of the river. The crowd slowly made its way over the levee as a woman sang.
And as everyone began to leave, a dance circle formed. Centered: , a fixture at New Orleans' protests carting a speaker, a cross and a flag. After a mostly solo dance performance to "Proud Mary," she was spontaneously joined a small group of mostly black women as the soundtrack turned to Megan Thee Stallion.
Afterward, a small group of people marched with signs onto U.S. 90 at Loyola. According to a reporter with The Advocate, they blocked traffic briefly before leaving the highway.
Meanwhile, a small group of white men stood at the gate to Jackson Square and clashed with protestors, who called them “white supremacists.” They eventually disbanded.
People made their way back to their cars and bikes, chatting amiably in a scene that, if not for the boarded-up windows and closed bars, could have been Mardi Gras.
Correction: An earlier version of the story incorrectly identified the group organizing a rally outside the mayor's house on June 17.
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