New Orleans protesters un-arrest Black community member and rally to defund police
New Orleans, LA – The Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition (OPPRC) led a rally outside City Hall before the June 11 city council meeting. The week before, the New Orleans Police Department fired tear gas and rubber stinger rounds at protesters on a bridge 200 feet above the Mississippi River. In response, the rally demanded that the city defund and demilitarize the police.
Sade Dumas of the OPPRC said, “Two-thirds of the city's funds are spent on over-policing and over-incarcerating residents. Those funds can be better used for social services that improve public safety and enhance the lives of all New Orleanians.” Protesters also called for an immediate ban on teargas. Many also favored a community-controlled model for achieving justice and safety.
At the end of the rally, Dumas announced that someone near the facility was hurt. She declared that both the person who was harmed and the person who caused the harm were from the community. Nearby medical students had rushed in as first responders, after marching from a neighboring protest outside Tulane Medical Center. When protesters marched to the other side of Duncan Plaza to see the livestream of the city’s criminal justice hearing, someone announced that the police were arresting a Black woman. Protesters gathered to investigate and support.
Cops prepared to put the community member in their SUV. She demanded they let her go, repeatedly telling them “No!” Concerned protesters arrived at the scene to support her. They relentlessly questioned the police about why they detained the woman but received no answer. Eventually, the officers brought the person into their squad car. Immediately, brave protesters stood in the way of the police cruiser, slowing it to a crawl. The car blared its sirens, which only announced the illegal detainment to everyone in the area. Hundreds of people surrounded the SUV, stopping the vehicle in its tracks.
“Let her go! Let her go!” chanted the demonstrators. They made it clear no one was moving until the police released the woman. Organizers close to the car again asked why the police detained her. The cops finally responded, stating that they were holding her for questioning related to the shooting. Community members reminded the police that they abused their authority. Public defenders on the scene confirmed that police should have just taken a witness statement, without detainment. Cops responded by saying their critics needed to do more research. This condescending reply did not stop the crowd from demanding a release. After nearly 15 minutes of a standoff, the police finally let the woman go into the open arms of her friends and family. Protesters successfully un-arrested her.
The New Orleans Police Department is currently under a federal consent decree. It also denied arresting protesters and firing projectiles at a march the night of June 3. After thorough community pushback, it admitted to all these crimes by that weekend.
Like the un-arrest, the rally at city council also proved successful. Community members submitted over 1500 public comments, the most in the city’s history. The police department responded by saying they would “modify” their use-of-force policies. But this response was about as patronizing as police telling protesters and legal experts at Duncan Plaza to do more research and go home. The people remain committed to revolutionary change.