This is What Democracy Looks Like
How does a peaceful demonstration of people exercising their right to free speech lead to a death threat?
That is the question being asked right now in New Orleans following demonstrations at Jackson Square Saturday, September 24, 2016. One in a series of protests that have brought raised voices throughout the Crescent City, last weekend’s protest was specifically aimed at the removal of the monument honoring Andrew Jackson.
Supporters of the monument argue that Jackson’s actions that aided in protecting the city during the War of 1812 are reason to retain the monument in its current position of honor. Protestors argue that due to Jackson’s role in the Trail of Tears, which caused the death and suffering of thousands of Native Americans, his monument should be placed in a museum or some other area dedicated to history. Protestors demand that some other monument honoring the city should take the space where’s Jackson’s currently resides, or have the space remain empty. The Jackson monument is one of a group of monuments that protestors want to see removed, such as the statue of Robert E Lee at Lee Circle.
Of all the protests within the past year, some featuring Black Lives Matter initiatives and others such as this one, featuring Take Em Down Nola goals, occurred without incident. Protestors were heard and no arrests made. However, this weekend’s events were met with a small group of counter protestors and David Duke, former governor of Louisiana and a well-known leader within the KKK. Disagreements during the protest led to seven reported arrests and one death threat.
This threat emerged from a Facebook page titled “Battle of New Orleans: The Bicentennial Documentary.” The page posted a photo of one of the organizers from Take Em Down Nola with the following statement “He’s like Charles Manson in that he gives the order and then hides behind the crowd so to not get arrested.” And when on to call him “PUBLIC ENEMY #1.” The page calls for him to be arrested believing his arrest would halt the Black Lives Matter and Take Em Down Nola groups.
Comments from the page’s supporters soon followed. A Paul Turnbaugh wrote, “Don’t arrest shoot the sewer rat ass wipe.” Patrick J Hebert stated, “He needs to be taken on a one way boat ride into the swamp.” Mimi Slipp added, “Right between the eyes.” The page refuses to accept responsibility for potentially placing this man at risk, placing several posts thereafter declaring they don’t support racism. However, the supporters of their page repeated several times their violent wishes for a peaceful protestor, and it was only due to this page’s showcasing of his photo.
In a democracy, the rights of the people to publicly protest are a necessary component of any healthy system. It is the means by which the people retain their power over the leaders whose decisions directly impact their daily lives. As I write this, I am reminded that even in a country full of people who declare their loyalty to the process of democracy, there are some who do not see any issue with making such threats. Even the Facebook page “Battle of New Orleans” suggesting that a peaceful protestor should be arrested is rife with the stuff that diminishes the democratic process.
New Orleans and many other cities have seen several protests and in an increasingly frequent manner. As these protests on the front lines and behind the scenes continue, the question on many minds is: at what point will the political leaders respond justly to the needs of the people? Will the leaders of New Orleans offer Quess Moore protection from those who have threatened his life? Will the city finally remove those monuments as they agreed to a year ago? Will the money sent to this city finally be allocated for neglected neighborhoods such as New Orleans East, Mid City, the 9th Ward, the 7th Ward and Uptown? Will the city support the parent’s demands for a decent and stable education system? Will the city support higher wages for its very necessary service industry? And if not, will the city consider the expansion of its financial development beyond tourism into other industries so that the people of New Orleans can truly thrive?
Tonight, these are the questions the people of New Orleans want answered.