Scoot: Will New Orleans protests remain peaceful?

August 18, 2017 - 11:09 am

Scoot:  Will New Orleans protests remain peaceful?

Two protests are scheduled for Saturday in New Orleans.  The motives behind each protest are different, but both protests will be fueled by great emotion and passion.  

So, what does this mean for the city of New Orleans and those who will gather to exercise one of the great freedoms we enjoy in America?  

If history is an accurate predictor, both protests in New Orleans will carry a lot of emotion and passion; but they will generally be peaceful.  However, at a time like this, the thought of something going wrong is inescapable.

The two protests scheduled for tomorrow are not competing protests.  They are not protests and counter-protests.  One of the protests is the “Flood City Hall” protest set for noon at Duncan Plaza across from City Hall.

The slogan for the “Flood City Hall” protests is “Step Down Before We Drown,” and it is a demand for Mayor Mitch Landrieu to resign in the wake of revelation of grave incompetence at the Sewage & Water Board.

While the chances of the protest succeeding in forcing the Mayor to resign are near zero, the purpose is really about a collective public display of disgust over politics taking precedent over doing what’s in the best interest of the people of New Orleans.

Even when a protest falls short of its intended goal, it can still serve a vital purpose in letting the target of the protest know exactly where citizens stand on an issue.  One thing to watch on the news is the diversity of the citizens who gather to express their contempt for the Mayor, the Sewage & Water Board and the City of New Orleans.

The other protest, “Charlottesville Protest,” is organized by the group, “Take ‘Em Down NOLA.”  That was the group that pushed the controversial agenda of taking down four Confederate-era monuments in the city.  The “Charlottesville Protest” is scheduled for 1:00 pm Saturday afternoon at Congo Square with a march to Jackson Square.  

“Take ‘Em Down NOLA” has been publically pushing for the removal of more statues, including the statue of Andrew Jackson at Jackson Square.  Even Mayor Landrieu has shown support for not removing Andrew Jackson’s statue.

Protesting in America has always been a fundamental aspect of freedom of speech.  In fact, protesting has been an integral part of the evolution of our political system.  But there have been too many times, like Charlottesville, VA last weekend, where protests turned violent.

The “Flood City Hall” protest and the “Charlottesville Protest” planned for tomorrow in New Orleans are promoted as peaceful protests; but with the climate of tension in America, there is concern that peace is not guaranteed.  Working in our favor is the fact that New Orleans has a tradition of more peaceful protests compared to equivalent protests in other cities.  A testament to that was the peaceful celebration in the streets of the city after the Saints won the Super Bowl.  While other cites witnessed victory celebrations turn violent, New Orleans set an example of how to celebrate a victory without violence.  

The temptation to engage in violence during a protest should be resisted.  President Trump was right when he said both sides of the Charlottesville protest were wrong; but had both sides taken the high road, violence could have been avoided.  For example, protesters make a clear choice to physically react if anti-protest words and phrases are shouted at them.  The decision to start physical violence over words suddenly designates that protest as no longer peaceful.

Attempts to physically stop or challenge a protest are equally wrong and demonstrate that the “anti” group broke the code of a peaceful protest.

In the heat of passion, set in the heat of the summer in New Orleans, resisting the instincts to react to words can be challenging; but those who claim to want a peaceful protest have a responsibility to maintain the peace even if freedom of speech protects the ugliest comments about their cause.

And if one group did try to initiate physical violence and the group under attack resisted as long as they could, then they would only expose their opposition as the troublemakers.

Let’s hope that in the figurative and literal heat of tomorrow both protests will continue in the tradition of peaceful protests in New Orleans.

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