The active ingredients were similar, and some of the same faces showed up in both cities, armed and ready for violence.
Yet the same combustible brew that erupted into an ugly street brawl and a deadly ramming in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday resulted in little more than angry words in New Orleans during similar clashes three months earlier over the removal of local monuments to Confederate leaders.
The images from Charlottesville — of white supremacists engaged in a toe-to-toe street fight with anti-fascists and others — marked a bloody coming-out for an increasingly virulent white nationalist movement.
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It was the kind of violent display that New Orleans police had worked overtime — at a hefty cost — to prevent during a series of demonstrations that culminated with a May 7 anti-monument march that online agitators had advertised as "The Battle of New Orleans."
New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Michael Harrison, who described the Virginia melee as "an absolutely horrible, tragic thing," declined to weigh in on a police response in Charlottesville that has come under heavy criticism for letting the brawl persist.
Instead, Harrison described the intensive planning and coordination his department undertook amid the rancor over Mayor Mitch Landrieu's controversial campaign to remove four Jim Crow-era monuments.
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Those efforts were aimed at disarming demonstrators and keeping the warring factions separated by barricades and a phalanx of cops.
"It's by design we did what we did. It's not by accident we had zero injuries," Harrison said. "We made it clear what the consequences were. We made it clear, by our large numbers, that we were prepared."
That coordination, he said, included heavy intelligence-gathering with the help of the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Louisiana State Police "Fusion Center" to get a bead on out-of-town monument defenders planning actions in town.
Craig Betbeze, spokesman for the FBI in New Orleans, declined to comment on the agency's role in responding to the monument demonstrations.
"We're always working around the clock to know, to the extent we can, who the parties are, when they're arriving and what their intentions are," Harrison said.
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He said police weren't always able to make contact with the pro-monument group leaders, but officers handed out literature to pro-monument protesters, letting them know the department intended to enforce local laws against holding firearms at protests or in proximity to schools, and prohibiting masking in public.
Communication with the anti-monument group "Take 'Em Down NOLA," was daily, Harrison said, allowing the department to "create certain movement and flow of movement" to keep the sparring factions split by barricades.
It didn't always work, such as during a clash at one Jackson Square protest in September. But Harrison said police manpower, including cops on horseback, largely kept the peace.
"There were some people in close proximity to each other, but there were so many police there, we created a 'contraflow' in and out of the area," he said.
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The monument removal would ultimately cost taxpayers and private donors more than $2 million, much of it spent on private security and overtime for officers.
Harrison noted that, unlike protests nationally over excessive police force, NOPD officers were not themselves the targets of ire from either side of the local Confederate monument debate.
"While there were people screaming at police because we were facilitating, they weren't primarily there to protest against police," he said.
Malcolm Suber, an organizer of Take 'Em Down NOLA, said his group took pains to steer clear of white nationalist groups that had issued online calls to arms. Suber said his group also warded off aggression by "antifa" groups like those that clashed with white supremacists in Charlotteville.
"We chose not to engage. We were not going to engage in fisticuffs. That's what they were seeking, to build their notoriety on fighting to defend these Confederate memorials," Suber said.
"We told people, 'If you march with us, you've got to be disciplined, and you can't leave our ranks,' " he added. "We decided we did not want to be a spectacle on the evening news. Of course, that's what transpired in Charlottesville. A lot of that was basically fighting for the TV."
Pierre McGraw, founder of the Monumental Task Committee, a preservation group that opposed Landrieu's removal plan, did not respond to a request for comment about the New Orleans protests or the potential impact of the violence in Charlottesville on efforts to keep Confederate monuments around the country standing.
The sheer numbers of white nationalists in Charlottesville appeared to be far greater than the contingent who showed up in New Orleans for the May 7 march from Congo Square to Lee Circle, according to media reports. And, unlike in New Orleans, those in Virginia appeared to significantly outnumber the counter-demonstrators.
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Saturday's violence, including the death of protester Heather Heyer, has prompted city and state leaders elsewhere to call for monument removals in other locales.
What struck Suber about Charlottesville, he said, was "an absolute absence" of police officers standing between what he described as "the fascist forces" and their opponents.
The ACLU of Virginia had won a court fight with Charlottesville over the right of the white nationalists to protest in the center of town. On Monday, the group's executive director, Claire Guthrie Hastings, argued that police failed to separate the two sides by barricades and then stood "passively by, waiting for violence to take place, so that they would have grounds to declare an emergency, declare an 'unlawful assembly' and clear the area."
Some journalistic accounts were also critical of the laissez-faire attitude initially adopted by the Charlottesville police.
But Dave Young, a law enforcement instructor in crowd control, argued that the TV images don't reflect the suddenness of the chaos that can erupt, or police manpower limitations. It's easy to second-guess, he said.
"There are always more spectators in the arena than warriors in the battlefield," he said.
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