New Orleans police chief encourages protesters to keep protests peaceful but is still on the alert

A man holds up a signy during a peaceful rally in downtown New Orleans, Tuesday, June 2, 2020. They were protesting over the death of George Floyd, a black man who was in police custody in Minneapolis. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

New Orleans’ police chief said Tuesday that protests in the city over the police custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis have been peaceful so far, and he warned that police are on alert for anyone who might be traveling to the city to incite violence.

“We have received information that there are individuals from other communities, other cities, that are going to various cities to possibly create chaos, create nonsense, create a disruption that would destroy our city,” Police Superintendent Shaun Ferguson said during a news conference called to discuss “outside agitators.”

He cited no specific information that anyone was coming to New Orleans to disrupt protests, which have turned dangerous and destructive in other cities around the nation. “We have not seen that yet here in New Orleans,” he said.

More than 500 people gathered Tuesday evening in a park across from City Hall as the protests about Floyd’s death continued around the country. The group of protesters, some carrying signs that read “If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention,” “Check your privilege,” and “I can’t breathe!”, marched in the Central Business District to Duncan Plaza chanting Floyd’s name at times and “No Justice, No Peace! No Racist A— Police!” at others.

The crowd was comprised of a mix of black and white people of various ages and most wore masks as the city continues to fight the spread of the coronavirus that shut down New Orleans for months.

Emma Cassidy, an emergency room doctor and among a group of seven health care providers who attended the rally in New Orleans in their scrubs, held a sign that read: “Racism is a public health crisis.”

“We see our patients have worse outcomes, have more deaths, because of their race, because of their economics,” Cassidy said. “It’s racism on the part of a corporate medical system.”

Antranette Scott, one of several who addressed the crowd of more than 500 and is affiliated with the New Orleans Workers Group, said she wants the world to know “that if this world wants peace, it needs to defund the police. If this world wants peace, it needs to end capitalism. If this world wants peace, it needs to invest in working class people.”

The rally started with a march through the New Orleans Central Business District and concluded with a more than hour-long rally at Duncan Plaza, the grassy park space near New Orleans City Hall. Demonstrators held signs that read “No Racist Police,” “Blacks Built America,” “I Can’t Breathe,” “Say Their Names” and “Eracism.”

Flanked by a local clergyman, Lester Love, and by W.C. Johnson, a community activist who has worked for police reforms, Ferguson said earlier Tuesday that he offered prayers to Floyd’s family “and any other families who have lost their loved one to an unjust law enforcement action.” He praised protesters for peacefully voicing their concerns.

He said protests are expected to continue in the city throughout the week, adding, “We shall not allow any outsiders, or anyone, come into our city and destroy our city.”

The New Orleans Police Department continues to operate under federal court oversight, the result of legal action by the U.S. Justice Department nearly a decade ago, and stemming from decades of recurring scandals and violence. The abuses came into focus in the “Danziger Bridge” shootings in 2005. Days after levee breaks that flooded the city during Hurricane Katrina, two unarmed African Americans were shot to death and four other people were injured by police who later tried to cover up the shootings. Multiple officers were convicted on federal charges related to the shootings or the cover-up or both.

Johnson said the department is “in a much better posture” now.


Source: Associated Press – KEVIN McGILL

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