Led by drums and chants of "no justice, no peace" and "Black Lives Matter," hundreds of people marched through the French Quarter Sept. 24 demanding the removal of Andrew Jackson's statue at the heart of Jackson Square. Take 'Em Down NOLA — a group that has urged for the removal of all symbols of and monuments to white supremacy, including the four Confederate-era monuments at the center of a lawsuit and city ordinance for their removal — had organized the march following what organizers consider the city's inaction. The city currently is locked in a court battle over the four monuments, waiting on a ruling from a federal appellate court — expected next week — before it can take them down.
New Orleans police and other law enforcement bulked up security around the Quarter, including adding several feet between the crowd and Jackson's statue using barricades around all sides. NOPD made seven arrests before and during the march, which pushed up against barricades as demonstrators demanded the statue come down.
Around 1 p.m., as the march began with a rally at Congo Square, white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan member and current U.S. Senate candidate David Duke stood with a few supporters to defend the monument. The crowd drowned him out with boos and chanted "go home." Duke left before Take 'Em Down NOLA demonstrators arrived.
In a statement, Take 'Em Down NOLA organizers wrote, "if the mayor and City Council of New Orleans will not publicly denounce symbols that honor white supremacy and remove them ... then we will continue to publicly denounce and protest white supremacy," calling for a boycott of the French Quarter "if need be."
"Today's action proves that the system protects monuments, but has no regard for proactively, consistently protecting Black lives ... in a predominantly Black city," the statement reads. "It is a slap in the face of all people who believe in equity and justice that Andrew Jackson exists elevated and celebrated in the heart of the French Quarter."
Demonstrators reached Jackson Square at 2:15 p.m. and marched to the barricades as several people and police tried to hold them back. Several NOPD officers on horseback also made their way into the crowd to push it back behind the barricades. A few balloons filled with red paint landed at officers' feet, and another splattered a police command vehicle. The crowd continued to march from Jackson Square to Decatur Street up to Canal Street and back to Congo Square in Armstrong Park before it disbanded. As tourists gawked and took pictures and video, others joined in, chanting along with "Black Lives Matter," or stepped out of the restaurants lining Decatur and Canal streets to watch. One cab driver held out a raised fist from his driver's side window.
The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals holds a hearing Wednesday, Sept. 28 over the future of the four monuments — Robert E. Lee at Lee Circle, Jefferson Davis on Jefferson Davis Avenue, P.G.T Beauregard outside City Park, and a monument recognizing the Battle of Liberty Place insurrection.
"We had a victory today," said activist Malcolm Suber at Congo Square. "NOPD stood publicly ... with our oppressors. ... Our objective is to take down Andrew Jackson. We will not rest until that happens, and we who believe in freedom will not rest. .... That statue is going to come down. I promise you."
Take 'Em Down NOLA's Angela Kinlaw led the march alongside Take 'Em Down NOLA organizers. "Some things have to end, some things have to start," she said through a megaphone on Canal Street. "It's not one or the other — it's both."
In its statement, Take 'Em Down NOLA presented two demands: for the city to not only follow through on its legislation to remove the four monuments but also "all other monuments to white supremacy in the French Quarter," and that the city also allocate or use its influence to raise $5 million a year for job creation for black youth, black historians and black artists and to erect accurate historical markers. "We need this effort to help combat and reverse the consequences of internalized racism that has been and still is pervasive in New Orleans," the statement reads.
"We will not allow white supremacists to reign supreme," Kinlaw said. "We're not only Take 'Em Down NOLA, we're 'build 'em up NOLA.'"