Lafayette was spared the worst of Hurricane Laura, but the city's leadership doesn't plan to open an emergency shelter anytime soon for those in neighboring communities who have been displaced by the storm.
Instead of hurricane damage, Lafayette has faced the "serious, local security threat" of protesters, according to Lafayette Parish Mayor-President Josh Guillory's administration.
Cydra Wingerter, Guillory's chief administrative officer, sent a Saturday email to those involved in disaster response, urging them to "take a pause on any action to establish shelters at this time."
Jamie Angelle, communications director for Lafayette Consolidated Government, confirmed the authenticity of the email, which has been making the rounds on social media this weekend.
"This is a serious threat and we must handle this issue before we can care for our neighbors. It goes against what we believe and how we usually respond after a disaster but it would be irresponsible to potentially put others in harms way," Wingerter wrote Saturday to leadership of the Acadiana Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters.
"We are not in a position to safeguard people displaced by Laura with this serious, local security threat. We know that bad actors will take our hospitality and use it against us."
Local pastors expressed concern over whether "the threat of outside entities" would present a problem at shelters at their facilities, Angelle said during a Sunday call.
The state's sheltering efforts will adequately take care of those displaced from the hurricane, Angelle said, noting that every hotel in Lafayette Parish is booked.
"I don't think this will prevent anyone from getting shelter," Angelle said. "Will they have to maybe go a little farther? Unfortunately, that's probably the case."
Protesters continue to be at odds with Guillory and his administration over response to the fatal police shooting of Trayford Pellerin.
Pellerin, 31, was killed by Lafayette police officers Aug. 21 at a gas station along the Northwest Evangeline Thruway. State Police investigators said Pellerin was armed with a knife and approaching the door of the convenience store when he was shot. Officers had trailed him for a half mile after responding to a disturbance call and deployed stun guns, which were ineffective, State Police said.
Protesters took to the streets again Saturday outside the Gen. Alfred Mouton Confederate monument downtown and marched to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette campus in support of racial equality and against police brutality. Meanwhile, a smaller group of protesters led by Tara Fogleman, of Unity 7, grilled hot dogs and burgers on the road outside Guillory's home. Fogleman said the barbecue was an invitation for the mayor-president to come outside and discuss Pellerin's death at the hands of police.
"In no way are we saying that (Saturday's) protest was dangerous or violent," Angelle said. "It was a lawful and peaceful protest, and we certainly hope it remains that way. Just given everything that's circulating — if you look at last weekend and the event that happened on the north side — our fear is that something will happen."
Lafayette's elected officials and law enforcement leaders have repeatedly said protests are being influenced by those from outside the Acadiana area, but they have not disclosed specifics of how they've come to that conclusion.
Public records show those arrested during protests have been from Lafayette and cities in the immediate vicinity, including Opelousas, Maurice and Abbeville.
Advocate Staff Writer Katie Gagliano contributed to this report.
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