News & Politics

Monday, April 24, 2017

New Orleans removes first of four Confederate-era monuments, announces funding to take down the rest

Posted By on Mon, Apr 24, 2017 at 9:03 AM

The Battle of Liberty Place statue at Canal Place was removed in the early morning hours April 24.
  • The Battle of Liberty Place statue at Canal Place was removed in the early morning hours April 24.
A few hours after construction crews began removing a statue intended to recognize "white supremacy in the South," Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced that the city should "truly remember all of our history, not part of it." The Battle of Liberty Place obelisk — one of four statues targeted for removal by the city, and what Landrieu called the "most offensive" of the four — was the first to come down.

The statues — which Landrieu said were "first erected as an affront to America, intended to deny the humanity of millions of Americans" — will be moved to a city-held warehouse before they move to a museum or similar building. Other statues to be removed include Robert E. Lee at Lee Circle, P.G.T. Beauregard at the entrance to City Park, and Jefferson Davis on Jefferson Davis Parkway in Mid-City.

Debate over their removal has swirled over the last several decades, but it came into sharp focus when Landrieu announced their removal in 2015. Debates continued at City Hall and elsewhere as officials mulled a "nuisance" ordinance under which the monuments could be removed, arguing their construction "suggests the supremacy of one ethnic, religious, or racial group over any other, or gives honor or praise to any violent actions taken wrongfully against citizens of the city to promote ethnic, religious, or racial supremacy of any group over another."

“The removal of these statues sends a clear and unequivocal message to the people of New Orleans and the nation: New Orleans celebrates our diversity, inclusion and tolerance,” Landrieu said in a statement early this morning. “Relocating these Confederate monuments is not about taking something away from someone else. This is not about politics, blame or retaliation. This is not a naïve quest to solve all our problems at once. This is about showing the whole world that we as a city and as a people are able to acknowledge, understand, reconcile — and most importantly — choose a better future. We can remember these divisive chapters in our history in a museum or other facility where they can be put in context — and that’s where these statues belong.”

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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Hundreds attend New Orleans March for Science (slideshow)

Posted By on Sat, Apr 22, 2017 at 4:46 PM



In this strange new world — where the valley between truth and satire grows ever-foggier and sometimes it seems as though reality itself is slipping  — scientists on seven continents and in New Orleans converged April 22 for rallies in support of facts, objective research and other previously undisputed elements of their work.

Hundreds of people in New Orleans, including a sizable contingent from a visiting conference of physical anthropologists, gathered at City Hall Saturday for a rally and March for Science defending scientific and medical research funding, opposing the politicization of research results and celebrating the role of scientists in protecting the environment and human society.

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Friday, April 21, 2017

Landrieu: letter threatening to pull funding over immigration issues is "another example of the Trump Administration acting before doing their homework"

Posted By on Fri, Apr 21, 2017 at 5:25 PM

CHERYL GERBER
  • CHERYL GERBER

New Orleans is among nine jurisdictions targeted by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which threatens to cut federal funding unless they can prove compliance with the feds over their "sanctuary" policies.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu has repeatedly asserted to the administration of President Donald Trump that the New Orleans Police Department and Orleans Parish Sheriffs Office — both of which are under DOJ federal consent decrees — obey federal law, and that New Orleans is not a so-called "sanctuary city" for people living the country illegally.

Today, the DOJ sent letters "requiring proof of compliance," or else. "Many of these jurisdictions are also crumbling under the weight of illegal immigration and violent crime," according to a press release from the department. "The letters remind the recipient jurisdictions that, as a condition for receiving certain financial year 2016 funding from [the DOJ], each of these jurisdictions agreed to provide documentation and an opinion from legal counsel validating that they are in compliance."

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

'Citizens' town hall' takes another dig at Sen. John Neely Kennedy

Posted By on Wed, Apr 19, 2017 at 10:35 PM

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The questions fell like hail on the impassive white face of a cardboard cutout meant to represent Sen. John Neely Kennedy, who was not present for a "citizen's town hall" hosted April 19 at First Unitarian Universalist Church by the New Orleans and Metairie chapters of progressive organization Indivisible.

At the event, which was meant to spotlight a perceived lack of responsiveness from the Louisiana freshman senator's office, speakers took the mic to pose inquiries to the mock Kennedy, who rested opaquely in a cardboard "office" reminiscent of Lucy's psychiatric clinic in the "Charlie Brown" comics.

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Report: homeless youth face high risk of human trafficking

Posted By on Wed, Apr 19, 2017 at 5:50 PM

Every year, public officials and others sleep on the sidewalk outside Covenant House to raise awareness of youth homelessness. - PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • Photo by Cheryl Gerber
  • Every year, public officials and others sleep on the sidewalk outside Covenant House to raise awareness of youth homelessness.

Nearly one in five young people experiencing homelessness were the victims of human trafficking, according to a report from Loyola University New Orleans' Modern Slavery Research Project. The project team interviewed 641 "homeless and runaway youth" between ages 17-24 who had received care from Covenant House shelters, transitional living centers, apartment programs and drop-in centers at 10 North American cities, including New Orleans.

The report — using a federal definition of human trafficking as "the use of force, fraud or coercion to control victims for the purpose of engaging in labor or sex trade against their will" — found that 19 percent (124 people) of respondents were victims of trafficking. Fourteen percent of respondents were trafficked for sex, and more than half of those victims say they were forced or coerced to do so.

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New Orleans Political Woman Forum April 25 takes on the "glass ceiling"

Posted By on Wed, Apr 19, 2017 at 10:20 AM

State Rep. (and upcoming New Orleans City Council candidate) Helena Moreno.
  • State Rep. (and upcoming New Orleans City Council candidate) Helena Moreno.

A panel April 25 hosted by Voters East of the Industrial Canal (VEOTIC) focuses on women's issues in politics, including political literacy, gender gaps in voting and overall women's rights. The event is notable for its guest list, which includes every female member of the current New Orleans City Council (councilwomen Nadine M. Ramsey, Stacy Head, Susan G. Guidry and newly declared mayoral candidate LaToya Cantrell), plus State Rep. Helena Moreno, who will run for the council seat being vacated by Stacy Head. Veteran organizer Timolynn Sams Sumter moderates the discussion.

Political involvement and activism led by women is fast becoming a powerful force in both local and national politics, particularly on the left. A recent Slate article credits the surprise success of dark horse Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff, who will advance to a runoff to represent Georgia's historically-Republican Sixth District, to women organizing on his behalf. The organization EMILY'S List, which supports progressive women as political candidates, has reported a dramatic uptick in the number of women who have reached out to express interest in running for office. These are encouraging signs for proponents of women's rights in Louisiana, where women have historically been underrepresented in the legislature and beyond.

The event, which takes place at St. Maria Goretti Church Community Center, begins at 6:30 p.m. It's free to attend.

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Report: Louisianans support anti-discrimination protections for transgender people, but not bathroom access

Posted By on Fri, Apr 14, 2017 at 4:00 PM

A rally in Jackson Square following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage.
  • A rally in Jackson Square following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage.

The results of a survey of more than 1,000 Louisianans illustrates the continuing, deep divide among people who believe LGBT people deserve protections from discrimination and those who do not.

The Louisiana Survey from LSU’s Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication found that a majority of respondents believe transgender people deserve protections from discrimination in the workplace — but don’t believe transgender people should be able to use bathrooms according to their gender identity.

Nearly 70 percent of respondents agreed transgender people should be protected from workplace discrimination, a move supported by an executive order from Gov. John Bel Edwards which mandates that state contracts include language that prohibits discrimination against LGBT employees. That order — prompted by the state Legislature’s inability to pass similar measures to extend anti-discrimination protections to LGBT people — was tossed out by state courts following a lawsuit from frequent Edwards opponent and Republican state Attorney General Jeff Landry.

Respondents who agreed to workplace protections for LGBT people included 83 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of Republicans.

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Bossier City abortion clinic reported as closed as Trump signs anti-abortion legislation

Posted By on Thu, Apr 13, 2017 at 6:07 PM

At a Feb. 10 Planned Parenthood rally, a supporter steps in front of an anti-abortion activist. - KAT STROMQUIST
  • KAT STROMQUIST
  • At a Feb. 10 Planned Parenthood rally, a supporter steps in front of an anti-abortion activist.

Recent news from upstate Louisiana and from Washington, D.C. suggests an ever-more fraught environment for abortion rights advocates and women who require abortion services.

Earlier this week, a short Associated Press report seemed to confirm the closure of Bossier City Medical Suite, one of the state's four remaining clinics that provided abortion. A news release from the anti-abortion group Louisiana Right to Life cited public records indicating the return of the clinic's license to the Louisiana Department of Health; the clinic's phone number appears to have been disconnected.

Nationally, several major media outlets are reporting that President Donald Trump has signed legislation permitting states to withhold federal family planning dollars (Title X funds) from outlets which also provide abortion services, such as Planned Parenthood. (Federal dollars themselves already cannot be used to pay for abortion services, so this new legislation restricts funds used for other aspects of women's reproductive health, like contraception and check-ups.)

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Trump suspends weekly immigration reports including New Orleans and cities that "limit cooperation" with feds

Posted By on Wed, Apr 12, 2017 at 6:00 PM

Protesters in New Orleans march against Trump's immigration orders in January.
  • Protesters in New Orleans march against Trump's immigration orders in January.

Three weeks later, the Trump administration has suspended its weekly reports listing cities and local law enforcement that "limit cooperation" with federal immigration authorities. The reports listed jurisdictions that declined  Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers requesting local law enforcement to maintain custody of people living in the country illegally — New Orleans landed on that list for the New Orleans Police Department’s (NOPD) policy to “not honor a detainer without a judicial order or criminal warrant,” according to the report.

The reports aimed to pressure law enforcement and cities with so-called “sanctuary” policies to comply with President Donald Trump’s ramped-up enforcement of immigration actions. But after three reports and complaints of inaccuracy, corrections and clarifications from cities with orders from the Department of Justice that didn’t satisfy new DHS procedure, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) suspended the practice, “based on a desire to make sure that we have quality data [and] that the information we’re publishing is as accurate as we can be,” according to DHS spokesman David Lapan, speaking to CNN.

The administration hasn't defined "sanctuary" policy — in its reports, DHS says it "continues to evaluate the appropriate criteria" to define what exactly "sanctuary" policies are.

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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Consent decree or not, NOPD Chief Harrison wants "fair, constitutional policing"

Posted By on Wed, Apr 5, 2017 at 6:30 PM

NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison: "I remain committed and every member of my team remains committed to police reform." - PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison: "I remain committed and every member of my team remains committed to police reform."

In a recent memo to the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered an “immediate review” of all department activities, including all existing and planned consent decrees with law enforcement agencies. “Local control and local accountability are necessary for local policing,” Sessions wrote. “It is not the role of the federal government to manage non-federal law agencies.”

Since 2009, according to The Washington Post, the department has opened 25 investigations into law enforcement agencies and enforced 14 consent decrees, among other agreements, in the wake of civil rights violations and corruption in police departments around the U.S. Those agreements include consent decrees with the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office, overseen by U.S. District Judge Lance Africk, and New Orleans Police Department (NOPD), overseen by U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan. Since 2013, DOJ reforms within NOPD — detailed in nearly 500 points on more than 100 pages — aim to overhaul nearly everything within the department, from anti-bias measures and profiling to how officers handle domestic violence cases, efforts to ensure “constitutional policing” across the board.

Former U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite — who was asked to leave his post even after he submitted his resignation as President Donald Trump cleaned house — said Sessions’ memo isn’t enough to end the agreements. “Not sure if Sessions knows this,” Polite said on Twitter, “but he can't stop Judges Africk and Morgan from ensuring that our NOLA consent decrees move forward.”

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