The Danziger Bridge shooting verdicts handed down earlier this month represent "closure" to a "dark chapter" of the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) and in "our city's history." So read the thematically identical statement from Mayor Mitch Landrieu and NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas immediately thereafter. Now that a federal jury has convicted five current and former cops — four who were directly involved and one who aided in the cover-up of the Sept. 4, 2005, shootings, which left two dead and four wounded — we would finally have an "opportunity to turn the page and to heal (as we) look to the future and the continued rebuilding of the NOPD," the statements said.
Not everyone appears ready to move on. The African American Leadership Project (AALP), which since 2006 has memorialized Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures with its "Hands Around the Dome" event, was scheduled to host a sixth anniversary commemoration at the foot of the Danziger Bridge Monday, Aug. 29, at 6:30 p.m. At the event, AALP leaders planned to kick off a campaign to rename the structure the Madison/Brissette Bridge — after Ronald Madison and James Brissette, the two men killed in the shooting.
"It's so we will remember," AALP project manager Ernest L. Jones told Gambit last week. "We had some discussion and debate as to whether renaming it would unnecessarily open a wound. We said no. We wanted to keep in mind that there were human consequences to the devastation of Katrina as well as all the other consequences."
The bridge is owned and maintained by the state Department of Transportation and Development, so renaming it would require legislative approval. State Rep. Jared Brossett, D-Gentilly, whose district includes the bridge, said he is weighing whether to sponsor such a bill in the 2012 legislative session. "I have staff researching what the options are," Brossett told Gambit. "I would like to see those who have fallen be honored. Whether that's renaming the bridge or putting up a plaque, I'm not sure."
Jones said he invited members of the Madison and Brissette families to speak at the event but as of press time could not confirm who would actually be there. Landrieu also was invited to the event, but his office hadn't replied to queries regarding his attendance as of press time.
NOPD officials were noticeably omitted from the list of invitees. "I don't want to throw salt onto anybody's wounds," Jones said. Nor, he said, does he want the commemoration to devolve into police bashing. "This is not an anti-police move. It's a pro-police move," he said. "We citizens need to strive to get the police department we want and we need." — Charles Maldonado