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Thousands March In New Orleans, Demanding Reform And An End To Racism

Tegan Wendland
Educator and poet A Scribe Called Quess addresses protesters before they march through the French Quarter. June 1, 2020.

About 2,000 people marched from Duncan Plaza, past city hall, and through the French Quarter on Monday night in solidarity with marches across the nation in response to the police killing of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis.

It’s the fourth day of action in New Orleans demanding criminal justice reform, pay equity, an end to police violence, and an end to systemic racism in America.

People carried signs saying “white silence is violence,” “legalize black” and “criminalize police brutality.” One young black man held a sign that just asked: “Am I next?”

Organizers from the New Orleans People’s Assembly, the New Orleans Workers Group, Take ‘Em Down NOLA and others addressed the crowd. They pointed out that inequities are especially stark in New Orleans, where the household income for black families is just $25,000, while for white families it’s nearly $70,000. The state also has one of the highest rates of incarceration in the world, and most of the prisoners are black.

The rally was peaceful and full of camaraderie and calls for action. Educator and poet A Scribe Called Quess acknowledged the violence that has broken out across the nation, saying ,“We are here to be nonviolent. But we’re also here to understand the fact that the system is violent.”

“Every facet of it is violent," he said. "Exploitation of your labor is violence. Shutting down our schools and firing teachers after the biggest natural disaster this side of the millennium is violence. The way they treated us after Katrina is violence!”

The crowd cheered.

He said black people need to be paid fairly and treated fairly. In a call and response he yelled, “Break us off what you owe us in the first place! Pay black people! Pay black mothers! Pay black workers!”

In emotional testimonies, speaker after speaker described their own encounters with racism. After they wrapped up, the crowd marched in the streets for about an hour.

Daphne Cross marched downtown with her 13 year old son, who was too shy to talk. 

“This is long overdue," Cross said. "We’ve all got to come together and support one another.”

She said she hopes her son is inspired by the experience.

“It’ll teach him about standing together and changing unjust systems,” she said.

The crowd broke up before 10 p.m. New Orleans Workers Group and Take Em Down Nola have rallies planned for every weeknight, starting at 6 p.m. at Duncan Plaza for the next three days and at Jackson Square on Friday.

Tegan has reported on the coast for WWNO since 2015. In this role she has covered a wide range of issues and subjects related to coastal land loss, coastal restoration, and the culture and economy of Louisiana’s coastal zone, with a focus on solutions and the human dimensions of climate change. Her reporting has been aired nationally on Planet Money, Reveal, All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Marketplace, BBC, CBC and other outlets. She’s a recipient of the Pulitzer Connected Coastlines grant, CUNY Resilience Fellowship, Metcalf Fellowship, and countless national and regional awards.

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