(from a sign held by John "Spud" McConnell)
In the face of BP's oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and the weeks (now months) following the rig explosion and the deaths of 11 rig workers, everyone and everything are targets. Today, organizers for the BP Oil Flood Protest gave New Orleans a voice and a focus so its residents and the people of the Gulf coast do not remain hopeless against the powers that be. Hundreds gathered in the Jackson Square amphitheater and endured the rain. There were calls to action: write your representatives, demand action on all levels of government, invest in renewable energies, boycott, reduce your carbon footprint, volunteer. And then there was the collective voice — whether it was a release of anger and frustration, an inspiring voice, or an education. Those voices ranged form Dr. John, Treme star Phyllis Montana LeBlanc, fishermen, nonprofit organizations, and locals with big enough voices to ring out in the crowd, over a brass band and the surreal irony of a steamboat calliope pumping out patriotic hymns. "We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore" was embraced as the de facto chant.
"Louisiana did not land on BP," Leblanc said. "BP landed on Louisiana. ... Together we stand or divided we fall. We have to stand together and bring their asses down."
Lisa Gautier with Matter of Trust noted the the Gulf coast's international aid and support — from volunteers in New Zealand in Australia to across Europe and South America. Even Hooters, Hanes and Broadway musicals have pitched in. Gautier also made the organization's intentions loud and clear, despite BP's ongoing refusal to cooperate with the program. "Not going to name names, but they said the synthetic booms are superior and they float better. 'Hm, let's test.' And we did. ... You can all decide for yourselves."
Heather Glass with the similarly minded Oil Hair Project said the organization is calling for volunteers and giving potential volunteers a gateway to help through its website. Glass called for the coast to stop at nothing to hold accountable those responsible for the disaster.
"We will not take excuses, and we will not make excuses," she said. "The Gulf will not die. Not on our watch."
Emcee Henry Thomas ended the rally as members from the New Orleans Anti-Authoritarian Organization addressed the crowd, calling for a "militant stand" against BP.
"This is a peaceful organization," Thomas said. "This is a peaceful protest."