A day of protest in New Orleans began with a mock funeral at the Mississippi River and ended with dozens of protesters linking arms at Duncan Plaza. On Jan. 20, as Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President, hundreds of New Orleanians marched in the streets, offering satire in the morning and a massive call to organize against threats to marginalized communities in the afternoon. On Jan. 21, a Women's March in solidarity with similar events around the U.S. is expected to attract thousands more people,
"Staying at home and being a political armchair quarterback - that's not going to work," said Chuck Perkins, addressing a crowd after dark in Duncan Plaza. "We have to organize."
[jump] More than 1,000 people marched from City Hall after a rally that galvanized more than 100 Louisiana grassroots organizations, including BreakOUT!, Stand With Dignity, Congress of Day Laborers, the NAACP, hospitality workers, faith leaders, environmental justice groups and several locally based civil rights groups. The event - coordinated with Take 'Em Down NOLA and New Orleans Workers Group - follows the groups' growing presence in citywide activism, from calls to remove Confederate monuments and "all symbols of white supremacy" to support for affordable housing, criminal justice reform, workers' rights and health care, and explicit warnings against fascism, demagoguery and racism throughout the 2016 election.
That campaign is expected to precede a People's Resistance on June 3 to develop a platform for addressing issues locally in the years ahead - and as New Orleans voters prepare to select a new mayor and new members of the New Orleans City Council in the fall. Organizers will host a meeting Saturday, Feb. 11 at Christian Unity Baptist Church (1700 Conti St.).
Speakers at a rally in Duncan Plaza offered a platform for vulnerable communities, from people exposed to continued environmental damage, to hospitality workers, sex workers, LGBT people, immigrants and low-income people who fear losing access to affordable health care. Speakers stressed the rally was not just about Trump but the importance of unity and reaching out to others in need of help. Malcolm Suber called it a moment to "inaugurate the resistance."
"This is the time we've been waiting for," said Shaena Johnson, co-director of BreakOUT!. "It's now time to exercise our duty to fight for our freedom ... in jeopardy of being destroyed."
MarkAlain Dery with WHIV-FM called for an end to profit-based health care programs. Fernando Lopez with Congress of Day Laborers warned of the coming "aggressive and racist" immigration enforcement and urged protections for immigrant communities.
"If we are serious about taking our country back, it's going to have to be 'we the people,'" said Norris Henderson with Voice of the Ex-Offender. "Not just today, but tomorrow and the next day. We win by willing to fight one day longer than them." Bill Quigley, Director of the Loyola Law Clinic, called for dismantling white supremacy, aided with the election of Trump and the voters who put him there, he said. "We have to follow the leadership" of African-American, Latino, immigrant, LGBT and Muslim communities. he said.
Take 'Em Down NOLA's Michael "Quess" Moore called white supremacy the country's "binding glue." "When we allow tyranny to stand, we can't be surprised" when the Confederate monuments remain, he said.
"We are on the crest of a new movement defined not by who is black or white, who is cis or trans, but defined by our unity," said Matthew Kincaid. "If our gaze is not fixed on freedom, then freedom is only a dream ... We must continue to fight for the oppressed. ... If we talk about making America great, its greatness stands on the condition of the marginalized."
Signs bobbed above the crowd in the brass band-powered march circling the CBD from City Hall to Canal Street to Magazine Street. They spanned the brief ("No more war," "inaugurate racial justice," "pussy grabs back," "Putin on the ritz") and the not-so-brief ("Starting now: imagine queer, antiracist, anti-imperialist sustainable futures," "That lying, sexist, racist, homophobic psychotic, low-class, egotistical, disgusting, fear-mongering pig" - and on the other side - "is not my president. Never will be.").
"Are we for gentrification? Are we for racism? Are we for mass incarceration?" Suber asked. "If not, we need to make sure unity continues."