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Newell: Cantrell changes rules of engagement for protesters now that they came for her

Newell Normand
June 17, 2020 - 5:19 pm

Mayor Cantrell has written an open letter, expressing her anger about having demonstrators in the street in front of her Broadmoor home. This seems to be a tactic deployed across the U.S. - in Richmond, Virginia, protesters trashed the downtown building where that Mayor lives, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio got it too. The thing I find odd about the letter is that all of a sudden protests are offensive when they affect the Mayor’s life at home.

So I ask this question: what about the lives of those who live in the French Quarter? What about the lives of business owners that felt compelled to board up their businesses for fear they would be destroyed? What about the people who live downtown, where the homeless were relocated during the pandemic? What about those people’s kids? Why was that not a concern then, but all of a sudden it's a concern now?

It seems that we’re engaged in a lot of duality here.

This letter could be a good start to Mayor Cantrell’s autobiography, where she talks about her role in trying to lead this city. I’m not sure she has articulated it very well. She said the stated goals of the group that marched into Broadmoor last week should be better aligned with the tactics they chose, and said “it’s not about me, I’m only the Mayor! I can’t pass these rules, you have to go to the state legislature, go harass tourism and industry leaders!”

She says that can’t be what this moment is about, but she herself went on national TV and said this was her revolution, “this is our revolution.” Well, it’s your revolution until they exercise a whim as to where they want to protest. It’s okay to have them meander through New Orleans neighborhoods as long as it's not affecting her?

Mayor Cantrell says that to be an activist in this moment is a serious and sacred endeavour. “To be worthy of it, we must grow beyond the impulse to shout at the nearest authority figure.” You have got to be kidding me. “Determine who can make the changes, determine who is responsible and how they can make things right and work with them to move things forward.” Interesting.

She says “Nor was I the first Black woman to be elected Mayor because of any privilege.” How about the privilege of being the first Black woman Mayor elected in a majority Black city? “The hospitality industry and it’s workers are the lifeblood and backbone of this city.” That’s right, but by the same token you’re criticizing the entire industry for being a failure. 

I would love to know how many employees in Cantrell’s administration make less than the $31,215 living wage often talked about by her and others. She’s had the opportunity to make sure a living wage is paid to the city’s sanitation workers. She’s the appropriate authority, and they have reached out to her to make that happen. She’s in complete control of those contracts. So where are they? And as it relates to other city buildings, museums or otherwise, where are they in that conversation?

We have to look at ourselves critically in the mirror and it can't just be because we have an uncomfortable experience, and all of a sudden the rules of engagement change and we start pointing to where everyone else has to step up.

I'm not sure the Mayor has yet to step up.


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