Some thoughts this morning about what happened last night in New Orleans (yes, it’s going to be a thread): Before the confrontation on the bridge, there was a two-hour rally in Duncan Plaza and a two-hour march that took us up St. Charles Avenue, down Jackson and then turning onto Magazine Street. I saw organizers calmly address a few who were unruly. Throughout the march, there were calls to maintain discipline, periodically they would stop and raise one finger in the air as a sign to the crowd to regroup. I saw no violence or damage. Crowd was taking care of each other. Throughout the march, the NOPD blocked traffic by stationing their cars one block back from the protesters.
When we reached the onramp to the Crescent City Connection, the ramp was clear and it appeared that NOPD had stopped traffic. I’ve heard people say the protesters should not have been on the Crescent City Connection bridge. I don’t understand that argument, but I’m open to hear the reasoning. If it was appropriate for them to take St. Charles Avenue or Magazine Street, what makes the bridge different? The CCC also has a history that gives it weight as a site of protest. After Katrina, Gretna police blocked the bridge and fired weapons to prevent a group of black evacuees from crossing. The Justice Department decided that the officers did not break the law.
4 I don’t understand NOPD’s decision to block bridge. I hope they explain today. The standoff lasted an hour. If they let protesters passed, I believe it would have caused a shorter disruption to traffic. Other than as a show of force, I don’t know what the NOPD accomplished by confronting the protesters. I can say NOPD endangered the protesters with their actions. By stopping the movement of the march, people start bunching up closer. Social distancing was not happening, although nearly everyone in the march was wearing a mask. My colleague and I were trying to stay toward the edge, both to observe better and maintain more distance. The guardrail on the CCC, however, is low and that would be a hell of a fall. I moved us into the crowd, since it felt safer. I was worried that if there was a panic in the crowd, people could be shoved over the edge and die. The NOPD’s use of teargas could have set off that panic. The NOPD tweeted “the crowd refused to comply with three orders not to attempt to walk across the CCC.” This is not true. Maybe leaders at the front were given orders, but the crowd was told nothing by NOPD. Before we fell back, I was a few yards from the police line. I could see the row of helmets. I heard no orders from the police. Nor did I hear anything when we moved farther back. After the tear gas was fired, most of the protesters retreated. Many people were encouraging people to slow down, walk and not do anything that might cause panic or chaos. I was surprised as we left that the NOPD allowed traffic to enter the CCC while it was occupied by protesters. When we arrived, the onramp was clear. When we left, it had a line a vehicles with a semi in the front. Although the cars were stopped and many seemed supportive of the protesters, allowing traffic onto bridge seems like it would endanger both the protesters and the officers. I asked Mayor Cantrell’s office about this, but they still haven’t responded to my email from last night. At the base of the bridge, the organizers had stationed bike taxis to take away anyone who was injured. (End thread)