Civil Rights

Thursday, June 8, 2017

State lawmakers one step away from finalizing bill offering parole for some juvenile lifers

Posted By on Thu, Jun 8, 2017 at 10:37 AM


After months of negotiations over a controversial bill aimed to curb life without parole sentences for juveniles, lawmakers have reached a compromise.

Senate Bill 16, by Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, will eliminate life without parole for juveniles convicted of second-degree murder, but retain the sentence for offenders convicted of first-degree murder. Those who are granted the chance at freedom will be eligible for parole after serving 25 years of their sentence.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Bill on domestic violence protections for 'dating partners' moves to full state Senate

Posted By on Tue, May 23, 2017 at 1:40 PM

State Rep. Helena Moreno.
  • State Rep. Helena Moreno.

A Louisiana Senate Judiciary Committee favorably dispatched a bill to the full Senate for final debate Tuesday that would provide dating partners the same protection afforded spouses.

Dating partners involved in domestic abuse cases only can be charged with simple battery under current law. Domestic abuse battery carries more severe penalties. Louisiana is one of nine states where domestic abuse law does not recognize dating partners and does not allow the same protection as spouses.
House Bill 223, by State Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, creates a new section of law for dating partners, which is the same as the domestic spousal abuse law, except it does not ban the guilty dating partner from owning a firearm for 10 years.

The presence of a firearm in an abusive relationship increases the chances of a homicide by about 500 percent, according to the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Moreno’s bill would trigger a federal ban on firearm possession for more intense acts of violence, such as burning or strangling the victim, or for repeat offenders.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

With the removal of Robert E. Lee's statue, what's next for the monuments and New Orleans

Posted By on Fri, May 19, 2017 at 10:00 PM

Robert E. Lee's statue was removed from its pedestal May 19. - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • Robert E. Lee's statue was removed from its pedestal May 19.

At 11 a.m, a single PA speaker packed into a wagon blasted Ginuwine's "Pony" and Blackstreet's "No Diggity" as a small crowd gathered outside Lee Circle to watch a fourth Confederate-era monument come down.

Robert E. Lee's statue —  16 feet tall, 8,000 pounds, in his Confederate uniform, arms crossed, facing north — would remain on his pedestal, where the statue stood since 1884, for only a few more hours. At a few minutes after 6 p.m. May 19, a crane lifted Lee off the tower to cheers from a growing crowd.

At 3 p.m., Mayor Mitch Landrieu addressed an invitation-only crowd inside Gallier Hall, his period at the end of a nearly three-year sentence arguing for the removal of Confederate-era monuments from New Orleans' public space. In his impassioned 20-minute address, Landrieu challenged the city to acknowledge and reconcile its ugly past while building a more inclusive society. If not, he said, "then this will all have been in vain." Meanwhile, two members of the construction crew tasked with their removal placed the crane's hook to the straps wrapped around Lee's statue.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

New barricades go up across from the Jefferson Davis monument

Posted By on Wed, May 10, 2017 at 3:17 PM


The New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) has erected new barricades — reminiscent of the ones put up on Lee Circle this weekend — on the neutral ground across Canal Street from the Jefferson Davis statue. Temporary "No Parking" signs also have gone up on Canal Street and Jefferson Davis Parkway near the statue, in effect through May 12.

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Monday, May 8, 2017

Former Gambit editor Michael Tisserand weighs in on monuments in The New York Times

Posted By on Mon, May 8, 2017 at 2:29 PM

Michael Tisserand.
  • Michael Tisserand.

Michael Tisserand, former Gambit editor and author of the recently acclaimed book Krazy: George Herriman, a Life in Black and White, has an opinion piece about the Confederate monument controversy in today's New York Times, "In New Orleans, Racism’s History Is Harder Than Stone." An excerpt:
My son’s school is racially diverse, but it still bears the last name of Robert Mills Lusher, a fierce segregationist who championed education as a means for maintaining white dominance. I enjoy art markets and crawfish boils at a park named for Benjamin Palmer, a Presbyterian minister who on Thanksgiving in 1860 preached that it was the South’s holy duty to protect and extend slavery.

Over time, these tributes to white supremacy become just part of the landscape. “I never even notice them,” white friends have told me, and often I could say the same. As I drive these streets, I am reminded of the observations of Chuck Berry, who celebrated the city in his songs but shrewdly wrote in his autobiography that in New Orleans “segregation was practiced in a more polite manner, with some strategy.”
Read the whole thing.

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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Lee Circle march faces white supremacist groups as New Orleans prepares to take down Confederate-era statues

Posted By on Sun, May 7, 2017 at 11:00 PM

At Lee Circle May 7, white supremacist groups and monument supporters were separated from a massive group calling for the removal of Confederate-era monuments in New Orleans - ALEX WOODWARD
  • At Lee Circle May 7, white supremacist groups and monument supporters were separated from a massive group calling for the removal of Confederate-era monuments in New Orleans

The horns of the New Creations Brass Band powered a massive march to celebrate the removal of four Confederate-era monuments in New Orleans. Winding through the French Quarter from Congo Square to the steps of Lee Circle, hundreds of people joined the "second line" led by longtime civil rights advocates who have fought for years against white supremacist statues in New Orleans.

Last month, the city removed the first of four monuments scheduled for removal from the city's landscape following two years of debate, legal challenges and court rulings that ultimately gave the city approval to take them down.

The May 7 march was met by a few dozen white supremacists and monument supporters who gathered at the foot of the Robert E. Lee monument to wave Confederate flags and flags bearing the symbol of white nationalist group League of the South. Some wore baseball helmets, face masks, shin guards and armored vests — the uniform of an emerging paramilitary arm of the emboldened "alt-right" — and came armed with flagpoles, shields, pepper spray and guns.

With some traveling as far as California, the mostly out-of-town crowd of monument supporters came prepared to do battle with "antifa" and deliver a bloody response in the wake of April's clashes in Berkeley, California, while narratives on right-wing websites hyped a new "Battle of New Orleans."

Instead they were met by members and supporters of Take 'Em Down NOLA and other civil rights and workers groups — many of the same people who have marched repeatedly against the monuments, police violence, and Donald Trump's administration and policies, among other issues — all dancing alongside a brass band and a DJ blasting music from a truck.

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Report: No charges against officers in Alton Sterling death

Posted By on Tue, May 2, 2017 at 7:30 PM

Hundreds of people rallied at Lee Circle in 2016 following the death of Alton Sterling.
  • Hundreds of people rallied at Lee Circle in 2016 following the death of Alton Sterling.

As Baton Rouge braces for a decision nearly a year after the killing of Alton Sterling by police and the heavy summer that followed, The Washington Post reports the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) will not bring charges against the two officers.

Sterling was killed by police July 5, 2016 after they had pinned him to the ground outside Triple S Food Mart, where Sterling sold CDs and family and supporters have gathered in the months following his death. On July 6, the DOJ announced it had opened a civil rights investigation.

If the feds refuse to bring federal charges against the officers, the decision could rest with Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry to decide whether to bring state charges. On Twitter, Landry said his office will not comment until the DOJ makes a formal announcement. Gov. John Bel Edwards also has declined to comment pending confirmation from the DOJ.
According to The Washington Post and several Louisiana outlets, Sterling's family was not notified of the DOJ decision prior to media reports. In a statement, newly elected Baton Rouge mayor Sharon Weston Broom said she is "appalled that this news, whether true or false, has been disseminated without a formal decision being relayed to the Sterling family first." U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond said the report and lack of an announcement to the family "is an indictment on [the] DOJ."

"It completely undermines the credibility and transparency of [the Justice Department]," he said on Twitter.

Following Sterling's death and police response, thousands of people participated in demonstrations in Baton Rouge (where they were met with heavily armed and armored state and local police) and around the U.S. and in New Orleans, where hundreds of people gathered at Lee Circle to rally against police violence.

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Photos from the May 1 protest at the Jefferson Davis monument in New Orleans

Posted By on Tue, May 2, 2017 at 4:46 PM


Gambit photographer Cheryl Gerber captured these images from the May 1 protest at the Jefferson Davis monument in Mid-City.

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Deborah Cotton, longtime Gambit second line correspondent, dies at 52

Posted By and on Tue, May 2, 2017 at 1:52 PM

Deborah Cotton.
  • Deborah Cotton.

"It is my belief that you don't choose New Orleans — New Orleans chooses you. Those who have fallen for her, live with her, are sprung, lost and turned out in love with her, know exactly what I mean. Ain't no amount of wind, water, gunfire, potholes, 'ignant' politics or doomsday predictions can pry your death grip from her. Come hell or high water, you stay — or return.

"She makes you high from laughing too much and too long. She breaks your heart till you're crying on the kitchen floor. She haunts you, melts you and is just a damn joy to live in.

"I think she's a cult."
— Deborah Cotton
Deborah "Big Red" Cotton, Gambit's longtime second-line correspondent, local writer, filmmaker and advocate for New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian, brass band and social aid and pleasure club cultures died May 2 at University Medical Center. She was 52.

She was among 19 people injured during a mass shooting at an Original Big 7 Social Aid and Pleasure Club second-line parade she was filming on Mother's Day, May 12, 2013. She underwent dozens of surgeries to repair damage to several of her organs and a year of rehabilitation following the shooting. Friends of Cotton told The Advocate she had died from those injuries.

Cotton was raised in Texas and Oklahoma and lived in California before moving to New Orleans in 2005, just as Hurricane Katrina and the federal levee breaches damaged the city. ("Taking a cab from New Orleans to Houston is certainly an original, if not inexpensive way to escape Armageddon," she noted.) She returned after Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures with a mission to chronicle through blogs, photography and film what she considered the underreported aspects of New Orleans culture: Treme,  where she lived, brass bands, Mardi Gras Indians, social aid and pleasure clubs.

In 2007, Cotton published the book Notes From New Orleans: Spicy, Colorful Tales of Politics, People, Food, Drink, Men, Music and Life in Post-Breaches New Orleans, In it, she tackled such disparate subjects as the death of famed chef Austin Leslie; the eternal divide between native and non-native New Orleanians; the stories of the people of the 9th Ward; "The Welcome Arrival of Zoloft and the National Guard"; her search for the perfect "big black man named James" ("a tall black bear with a big belly who loves him a thick yella girl, the kind that would inspire Jill Scott to write a third album"); and her growing disillusionment with then-Mayor Ray Nagin.

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Scuffles, tense moments at Jefferson Davis statue in Mid-City overnight

Posted By on Tue, May 2, 2017 at 2:30 AM


The "monument defenders" who have been camped out at the Jefferson Davis statue on Canal Street in Mid-City were met by dozens of counterprotesters late Monday night, who staged a theatrical arrival, Les Miserables-style, on the back of a truck waving RESIST flags. On the side of the truck was a sign reading "FUCK OFF NAZI SCUM."

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