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Thursday, November 10, 2016

The party and protest: Election Day and aftermath in New Orleans

Posted By on Thu, Nov 10, 2016 at 12:45 AM

click to enlarge Hillary Clinton, mounted to a box of tissues, at Twelve Mile Limit on Election Day.
  • Hillary Clinton, mounted to a box of tissues, at Twelve Mile Limit on Election Day.

On Nov. 4, 2008, a crowd spilled out of One Eyed Jacks and onto Toulouse Street. Inside, a shoulder-to-shoulder audience of a few hundred people watched, through tears, as then-President-elect Barack Obama embraced his family and Vice President-elect Joe Biden while DJ Soul Sister blasted Parliament.

On Nov. 8, 2016, on the dance floor at One Eyed Jacks, a dozen people quietly sat behind a few small tables. A few others stood at the bar. A screen above the stage ticked a few more electoral votes to Donald Trump. There were no cheers.

At 8 p.m., a crowd — in solidarity pantsuits, homemade "Nasty Woman" T-shirts and patches and pins — packed into Twelve Mile Limit in Mid-City, turned to CNN as early voting returns started painting the map. Boos for red states. Cheers for blue ones. Cheers for Illinois Rep. Tammy Duckworth's election to the Senate. Boos for Marco Rubio's reelection to the Senate in Florida.

Crowds across town gathered for watch parties as the polls closed, high off the momentum from voting and in the company of friends, comparing TV results with updates on Twitter. Less than 24 hours later, a Trump effigy burned at Lee Circle.
click to enlarge Protestors burned a Donald Trump effigy at Lee Circle on Nov. 9, the day after Election Day.
  • Protestors burned a Donald Trump effigy at Lee Circle on Nov. 9, the day after Election Day.
Louisiana easily handed its electoral votes to the Republican nominee. Orleans Parish, however, as it did in 2012, 2008, 2004 and 2000, voted overwhelmingly Democratic. More than 80 percent of New Orleans voters went for Hillary Clinton, making up 133,833 of the state's 779,535 votes for the Democratic nominee. Louisiana recorded 1,178,004 million votes for Trump — only 42,267 came from New Orleans.

Clinton still clinched the popular vote, though turnout for the nominee was lower nationally than in 2012 for Barack Obama's reelection. But in New Orleans, it was a point higher. Polls heading into Election Day didn't bother imagining Louisiana as any kind of battleground — "it'll be red, it's always red, and that's that." They weren't wrong. New Orleans suburbs voted Trump. In St. Tammany Parish, he received nearly three-quarters of the vote. Some precincts in New Orleans received only one Trump vote.

Over the last 30 years, the divide between blue cities and red states has continued to grow, seemingly creating an infinite tug of war. There is, obviously, a disconnect between New Orleans and the rest of Louisiana, a relationship that often manifests in awkward, ugly confrontations in the Legislature over issues in New Orleans that don't necessarily register with legislators in northern or rural parts of the state. Say, for example, New Orleans legislators pushing for comprehensive sex ed, with a bill that focuses on New Orleans schools only, specifically so it can be passed, and is rejected because legislators can't ever imagine backing that sort of thing.

And there's the disconnect during a presidential election, in which New Orleans looks to other "blue" cities around the U.S., as it did in 2008, and not the rest of the state. On Election Night 2016, New Orleans voters — drained, in tears, deflated — asked "what happened?" as the state remained, firmly, as always, a red one.

click to enlarge Protestors at Lee Circle ("Beauty is in the street," at left)
  • Protestors at Lee Circle ("Beauty is in the street," at left)

Near the bar at The New Movement on Election Night: a big pot of "John Podesta's risotto". It was empty by 9:30 p.m. Trump's electoral votes inched closer to 200. Inside the theater, U.S. Senate candidate and comedian Kaitlin Marone celebrated her "victory" with cake and a screening of election coverage. (In the courtyard, a man asked what the event was. Marone: "We're just watching the world come to a crashing halt." He turned around. "I'm just gonna smoke a joint and watch TV.")

Downtown crowds at Lost Love Lounge, One Eyed Jacks and Hi-Ho Lounge, at their respective election night parties, dimmed from post-vote optimism to a shared anxiety, a fear that the unthinkable had happened. At Hi-Ho, one man played Solitaire on his phone. At Twelve Mile, after midnight, two women sitting at the bar in matching red, white and blue T-shirts and red hair bows were still glued to the TV above the bar. At 2 a.m., Trump delivered his victory speech.

click to enlarge dt2.jpg

The following evening, joining cities across the U.S., where thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest Trump's election and impending presidency, dozens of people gathered at Lee Circle. The Robert E. Lee statue has become ground zero for protests in the wake of the Confederate monument debate and New Orleans solidarity rallies following the deaths of black people by police — protestors have used the space to amplify calls to action agains white supremacy. On it, "Fuck Trump" and "Black Power" were written in graffiti.

Protestors brought signs ("We Will Not Let Hate Divide Us," "Disarm Systemic Racism," "Love Trumps Hate"), as well as their dogs (one dog was wrapped in a ripped T-shirt for "Pups Against Trump"). Black men and women, sexual assault survivors, LGBT people and others from a crowd of mostly young people took turns speaking against the perceived threats of a Trump presidency, calling on the crowd to stand against hate in the months and years ahead. Before the group broke off to march into the CBD, protestors lit on fire an effigy of Trump — with "Fuck Trump" written in red paint across its chest — and let it smolder on the steps until it turned to ash.

During the march, a Chase Bank window was smashed, and one man ripped a Trump flag from the bed of a truck that circled protestors several times.

As Trump opponents and politicos call for the "peaceful" transition of power, the protest naturally follows a growing movement in New Orleans — led by young people of color and students — challenging its power structure, questioning who benefits from it, who is overlooked and what can or should be changed. It wasn't necessarily a moment to grieve-as-protest but a continuation of a theme, one that's not going away quietly.

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