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Hundreds in New Orleans rally against police, racism and gender-based violence

By Toni Duplechain-Jones |
June 2, 2020
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Protest against police crimes in New Orleans.
Protest against police crimes in New Orleans. (Hope Byrd)

New Orleans, LA - May 30, 400 New Orleanians gathered in Duncan Plaza to protest in memory of George Floyd and in solidarity with Minneapolis demonstrators. The rally coordinated with the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression’s National Day of Protest. Participants demanded: “Justice for victims of police crime,” “Community control of the police,” and “Mass release of prisoners, in response to COVID-19.”

The crowd of demonstrators, which was multinational and mostly made up of Black and white working-class people, made militant chants. They proudly shouted, “Fuck 12”, “Abolish the police” and ”No justice, no peace” from underneath the canopy of trees. Transgender members of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization led and planned the rally. The protest centered Black trans lives and all but one of the scheduled speakers were Black trans people.

The rally went without disruption from the New Orleans police. In the evening the New Orleans Police Department made a post “thanking” protestors for being peaceful. But earlier in the day, the NOPD arrested a protester on their way home from a George Floyd solidarity march called by the New Orleans Workers Group and Take Em Down NOLA. The New Orleans Police Department is currently under a Federal Consent Decree following a 2011 Department of Justice report on its “unconstitutional conduct.” Thanks to the support of legal observers, volunteer medics and organized security, the rally was prepared against potential disruption.

Just across the river, in Marrero, Jefferson Parish police did disrupt a vigil for Modesto “Desto” Reyes. Reyes was a 35-year-old Black welder and a Hard Rock Hotel collapse survivor. The Jefferson Parish police shot him to death, just two days after the murder of George Floyd. The police have not released the taser footage to the public and the family demands justice. The police arrived in force and arrested two participants of the peace walk.

“The Black Lives movement is a movement rooted in joy, even though we experience pain,” said Mariah Moore of the TGNC People’s COVID Crisis Fund. The crowd cheered. Mariah and other Black trans speakers centered the demand for justice following the slaying of Tony McDade. The Tallahassee Police Department killed McDade, a 38-year-old Black trans man, on May 27.

Milan Nicole Sherry of the Trans March of Resilience spoke on the brutality that the Black trans community faces under Louisiana’s Crimes Against Nature law. The statute criminalizes trans people for simply existing. The Black trans community is currently fighting to remove the law, and to expunge records of Crimes Against Nature felony convictions.

The speakers at the demonstration expressed a full range of responses to the oppression of African Americans. Spirit McIntyre of Trans*Visible offered an affirming blessing in the form of song. “I was Tony Mcdade,” said community member Zahair Malachi Martinez as he gave tearful testimony on the need for support and justice for Black trans men.

Further speakers, all of them Black, matched the radical enthusiasm. “Either you are a racist or an anti-racist,” shouted Rev. Gregory T. Manning, “Either you support a system that has been raised up to oppress or you are working against it to destroy that system.” Manning added, “This currency has enslaved us!”

Manning spoke about the economic condition of Black people in the United States and also made the connection between police and the violence of environmental racism that Black people face in Louisiana’s Cancer/Death Alley. The reverend criticized the municipal government’s “hypocritical” treatment of its homeless residents. Many of the city’s homeless population live in Duncan Plaza and observed the demonstration.

Frank Southall of the New Orleans Renters Rights Assembly raised the issue of evictions and called for people to fight to keep the eviction courts closed.

During the open mic, many community members spoke about their own experiences. One protester talked about losing a cousin to a police killing. One young Black person recited a poem and more spoke on their experiences with racism and the police.

Many organizations supported the rally and the demonstration had endorsements from various groups. Of the orgs that endorsed, there were organizations led by Black queer feminists, socialist organizations and mutual aid organizations.

Participating organizations included Southern Solidarity, Southerners on New Ground - New Orleans, Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition (OPPRC), NOLA Trans March of Resilience, TGNC People’s COVID Crisis Fund, Renters’ Rights Assembly, New Orleans Mutual Aid Society, New Orleans Democratic Socialists of America, People's Defense League - New Orleans, New Orleans Abortion Fund, Women With a Vision, The Reproductive Justice Action Collective, and the General Assembly of New Orleans.

The rally was a statement against the police, capitalism, racism and gender oppression. Baton Rouge and Lafayette also held large protests. The fight in New Orleans continues as the city’s community organizations plan more protests throughout the week.