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Louisiana: Rally in solidarity with youth incarcerated at Bridge City Center

By J Martel |
June 29, 2022
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Rally in solidarity with youth uprising at Bridge City Center.
Rally in solidarity with youth uprising at Bridge City Center. (Fight Back! News/staff)

New Orleans, LA - On the afternoon of June 18, New Orleans for Community Oversight of the Police (NOCOP) and about 15 community members from Orleans and Jefferson Parish held a rally in solidarity with the youth imprisoned at Bridge City Center. For over an hour, the group held signs and banners and led chants in a loud show of support for the youth.

Cars passing by honked in support as cops and prison guards watched from the front door of the detention center. This action took place less than two days after the incarcerated youth staged an uprising and several successful escape attempts.

At 10 p.m. the night of Thursday, June 16, around 20 incarcerated youth exited their cells and managed to take over and hold parts of Bridge City Center for nearly three hours. The prison responded with state police, Jefferson Parish police, a SWAT team, and K-9 units. This rebellion happened only hours after five youth successfully escaped the facility and remained outside for hours.

Since then, parish and state politicians increased the number of police at Bridge City Center for Youth and called for the facility’s closing. Louisiana state officials are now developing plans to convert the defunct Jetson Center - closed due to horrible conditions - into a high-security prison for the youth.

The NOCOP members and supporters gathered on the levee of the Mississippi River across the street from the prison with the hope that the youth inside could see the show of support. Chants of “No more retaliation! End mass incarceration!” “What’s outrageous? Kids in cages!” and “Bridge City Youth is right to rebel! State troopers go to hell!” rang across the levee and surrounding neighborhoods. 

“The Louisiana State Police are racist. They murder Black people without consequence and are accountable to no one,” Toni Duplechain-Jones, an organizer with NOCOP, said. “These goons are being sent to repress youth for rebelling against the abuse they experience inside of Bridge City jail.”

“Immigrants are also criminalized just as these youth are criminalized. They are right to resist. They are right to rebel. We are watching and we support you and we are here for you!” Mohamed Khan, an organizer with New Orleans Immigrants’ Rights Action (NOIRA) said.

Parents of the incarcerated youth have raised attention to the mistreatment and abuse at Bridge City Center for years. The facility has held the youth captive throughout the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic, refusing to allow them to see or call family.

Bridge City Center for Youth has a track record of unaddressed abuse. Adult staff members are poorly trained; bring in contraband; and groom the youth, forming inappropriate relationships. The Center has refused to feed the youth imprisoned at the prison for days at a time.

Media outlets, which originally called the youth’s action for what it was - an uprising - have shifted their narrative and are now calling their resistance a “fight.” This narrative shift obscures the power of the youth’s decisive, political act of resistance.

In quick response to these forces, NOCOP staged this rally to demand that the prison staff not retaliate against the youth incarcerated at the facility and to show support for their struggle against their horrible conditions.