As I stood in a crowd of protesters last night in the shadow of City Hall in New Orleans, I felt a sense of anarchy. The main speaker’s methodical manipulation of the crowd of well over 1,000 whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians and people of Middle Eastern descent - my instincts revealed to me that this was a passionate performance by an experienced instigator.
Several times the speaker referred to the people of the “city of Orleans Parish.” That is not a phrase that a local person would use. While I can’t be sure - it appeared to me that the main speaker leading the protest rally last night in New Orleans may have been an experienced provocateur.
I was impressed by the complexion of the large crowd - which was diverse and the standouts were the young, tattooed Doc Marten-wearing whites visually approving the sermon from the mount. But I was frightened by the diversion of the message into a “F*** the Police” and anti-capitalism diatribe that reached beyond the reason that inspired many locals to stand up and represent disgust over another example of the mistreatment of black suspects in America.
The speaker seemed to be in sync with many in the crowd that were protesting a “hate the police” agenda. Many picked up the cues so quickly that it was difficult to believe the protest rally was just about the death of George Floyd.
Not only did “F*** the Police” resonate through the crowd - but the speaker went so far as to say that the NOPD officers that are nice to you at Jazz Fest are not your friend and are being deceitful to the people of New Orleans. She stressed that the NOPD officers kneeling down to show respect for the protesters was deemed “bullsh**!”
The crowd was told that when you don’t pay your rent - your landlord calls NOPD to evict you from your home. To further build an anti-police message - the speaker said that if police officers really cared about you - they would “turn in their badges.” Was she suggesting a society without police? I couldn’t help but wonder what the speakers on the mound would do if there were no police?
After I left the protest rally out of a growing sense of safety concerns - the protest marched by Lee Circle - where a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee once stood - down St. Charles Ave. and then to the prominent shopping area of Magazine Street uptown and ultimately onto the Crescent City Connection - the bridge that connects the East Bank to the West Bank of New Orleans.
At some point - tensions grew to the point where NOPD fired tear gas canisters to disperse the crowd, and the protest ended without erupting into massive violence.
I have said on my radio talk show on WWL-New Orleans - that those who benefit from racial tension from a financial and power standpoint - may be hijacking the sincere and justified effort to raise awareness about the injustice many black males have experienced. And that injustice has too often meant death.
Regardless of any orchestrated efforts to benefit from the tragic death of George Floyd - we must stay focused on the bigger issue of the mistreatment of black suspects in a nation where we are all deemed equal and all protected by the Constitution.
Do not judge the original true message of the protesters by the obvious attempts by others to benefit from the horrific death of George Floyd.