This week New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell fired off harsh criticism of a Christian gathering last Saturday afternoon that attracted hundreds of mostly unmasked people across from Jackson Square in the French Quarter. The Mayor implied the city was deceived by the organizer of the event called “Let Us Worship,” which featured Grammy Award-winning Christian artist Lauren Daigle.
Mayor Cantrell condemned the event telling WWL-TV, “The organizer used the pretense of religion to hold this event with other motives.” She added“While this was under the guise of a religious activity or event, we know it put our people in danger.”
When video of the concert-event hit social media by Sunday, local musicians reached out to me to pass on how they felt betrayed by the city of New Orleans.
While Mayor Cantrell publicly criticized the large gathering at Jackson Square over the weekend, video surfaced of a massive gathering along N. Claiborne Ave. under the I-10, an event attracting hundreds of people from Treme and the surrounding neighborhoods. An eyewitness who says the mass gatherings are occurring every weekend during the pandemic told WWL-TV, “This is an ongoing issue. It’s so unsafe. If you look at it, you can see that’s a super spreader. No one is masking, no one is social distancing.” Fearing backlash from the community she lives in, the witness did not want to be fully identified.
Video clearly shows a massive crowd not wearing masks and not social distancing. Even two NOPD officers were seen not wearing masks, which Mayor Cantrell said would be a violation of the city’s coronavirus mandates.
Mayor Cantrell seemed oblivious to the weekly gatherings. It is difficult to believe our mayor is not aware of this community activity. If NOPD was there, then the city was aware of the huge gathering.
Once again the unbelievable question must be asked: Is Mayor Cantrell being fair?
As the pandemic was ramping up in March, Mayor Cantrell used a heavy-handed tactic with NOPD to break up the traditional street gathering outside of Tracy’s Pub on Magazine Street - a popular spot on and before St. Patrick’s Day. The Mayor had a right to be concerned about the failure of participants to wear masks and social distance.
That happened on a Saturday afternoon. That night I was in the French Quarter and went live on social media from a packed Bourbon Street asking why the Mayor broke up the St. Patrick’s Day gathering in the street but not apply the same rules for all of the people on Bourbon Street? Within several hours - NOPD appeared in the French Quarter and began dispersing the crowd. I don’t know if it was my coverage, but what is obvious is that the Mayor suddenly realized she was being hypocritical.
Now we witness Mayor Cantrell bashing a Christian gathering while allowing a weekly gathering to continue in a nearby neighborhood. That doesn’t make sense and the Mayor needs to fairly apply the pandemic rules of the city to everyone.
When the Mayor talks about the pandemic and the racial tension that has plagued America over the past 9 months, she often refers to “our people.” She tends to use that pronoun in the context of comments that make me feel like I am not one of “her people.”
The selective enforcement from Cantrell and the city of New Orleans needs to be addressed and even the hint of favoritism can no longer be part of a city that prides itself on equality.