Hundreds marched through downtown New Orleans and flooded the interstate Tuesday night during the fifth consecutive day of protests organized in response to the police killing of George Floyd.
Marchers turned off Tulane Avenue onto the I-10 ramp and blocked off east and westbound traffic while chanting “Black Lives Matter.” The protest on I-10 stopped traffic for over two hours before ending peacefully.
The protest began as a rally in Duncan Square, where speakers from New Orleans People’s Assembly, New Orleans Workers Group and other organizations addressed the crowd.
Angela Kinlaw of the New Orleans People’s Assembly spoke to the city’s history of police violence, including the Danziger Bridge incident in which NOPD officers killed two African Amercans and wounded four others. She also brought up the death of Modesto Reyes, a worker who survived the Hard Rock Hotel collapse but was shot and killed last month by a Jefferson Parish deputy.
“These police killings are modern-day lynchings,” Kinlaw said.
Xavier, a native New Orleanian in his twenties who declined to give his last name, returned after attending the rally on Saturday. He was pleased with the high turnout.
“It’s much needed. It’s past due," Xavier said. "And we’ve got a long way to go. I want to live and so I’m fighting for my freedom."
Following the rally, protesters marched up Canal Street. But instead of circling back to the park, they made a sharp turn onto the interstate and brought traffic to a standstill. Police vehicles blocked the on-ramps as demonstrators marched onto the elevated highway and stormed past stalled cars. Some drivers honked in support, and a handful exited their cars to march with the protestors.
On top of the expressway, thirty-four-year-old Cantrice Samuels chanted George Floyd’s name. It was her first protest.
“I am so glad that we’re doing this because equality matters. It’s time for us to become one as a people. That’s what’s bringing the world down, us being divided,” Samuels said.
After the sun went down, silhouetted marchers took a knee and raised their fists near the Orleans Avenue exit, where a row of NOPD and state police officers, some in riot gear, blocked the street.
NOPD Chief Deputy Superintendent John Thomas, addressed the crowd over a loudspeaker and assuaged protestors when he took a knee at their request. Around 10 p.m., leaders agreed to go home and shepherded the crowd down the exit ramp.
Coach Chestnut, a high school track coach, was relieved the protest ended peacefully.
“I want to be a part of the movement," Chestnut said. "I have black sons and I want them to witness this. The community has really come out to let their voices be heard. They want to be seen. They want justice.”