Civil Rights

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Landrieu meets with Jeff Sessions, Sen. Kennedy to discuss 'sanctuary' policies

Posted By on Thu, Nov 16, 2017 at 5:56 PM

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. - PHOTOS BY GAGE SKIDMORE/NICK PRETE / CREATIVE COMMONS
  • U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

The dispute between Mayor Mitch Landrieu and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions over New Orleans' compliance with federal immigration authorities has seemingly hit another wall.

It's been a caustic back and forth, following hardline immigration policies and rhetoric from President Donald Trump, lawsuits over cities and "sanctuary" policies, and aggressive Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) action.

Landrieu says the city and New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) do communicate with ICE, and nothing in NOPD policy prohibits the department from sharing information with the feds. Sessions says the city harbors people living in the country illegally through NOPD policy that effectively gives them "sanctuary." Landrieu says NOPD arrests people regardless of status and that "New Orleans is not a sanctuary city." Sessions says NOPD policy doesn't go far enough to open communication between the city and the feds when an undocumented person is in custody.

On Nov. 16, Landrieu, City Attorney Rebecca Dietz and NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison met with Sessions and U.S. Sen. John Neely Kennedy. Landrieu said the meeting went well — once again assuring that the feds agree with Landrieu that the city does not have "sanctuary" policies.

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Saturday, November 4, 2017

Juvenile life without parole still administered too heavily, children's rights advocates say

Posted By on Sat, Nov 4, 2017 at 12:00 PM


Earlier this year, the Louisiana Legislature was tasked with enforcing U.S. Supreme Court rulings mandating that children be sentenced to life in prison in only "rare" and "uncommon" instances.

Now, children’s rights advocates say the state is failing to comply, as prosecutors are still asking for juvenile life without parole in more than 30 percent of all cases that have in recent years been made eligible for reconsideration.

"The District Attorneys are not using their discretion as the Supreme Court mandated nor are they heeding the explicit will of the legislature,” said Jill Pasquarella, attorney at Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights. “The legislation means nothing if the state does not comply with the Constitution in practice.”

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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Report: John Besh Restaurant Group fostered climate of sexual harassment

Posted By on Sat, Oct 21, 2017 at 4:16 PM

John Besh.
  • John Besh.

It's a story that's been whispered about locally in the last few weeks, ever since it was announced last month that restaurateur and "celebrity chef" John Besh was splitting from Alon Shaya, whose Shaya restaurant (part of the Besh Restaurant Group) turned homemade Israeli food into a dinner ticket as hard to get as Hamilton.  But what caused the falling out? There had to be more to it than chef's egos.
In a blockbuster piece of reporting today, The Times-Picayune |'s Brett Anderson laid out a picture of the Besh Restaurant Group as a company where sexual harassment thrived, citing 25 current and former Besh employees who claim that the "bro culture" was so commonplace there that women were systemically harassed — and revealing that the restaurant group, which included more than 1,000 employees, amazingly had no human resources department where the women could take their concerns:

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

ACLU of Louisiana's Marjorie Esman to retire at the end of October

Posted By on Thu, Oct 12, 2017 at 4:24 PM

Marjorie Esman.
  • Marjorie Esman.
Marjorie Esman, who has served as Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Louisiana since September 2007, will be retiring at the end of the month, the organization announced.

Esman, a graduate of Tulane Law School, was a member of the ACLU of Louisiana board of directors from 1995 and the ACLU National Board from 1997.

In a statement, Esman said, “In the past 10 years we’ve accomplished a great deal, in legislative, litigation, and public education efforts that span the range of criminal justice reform, LGBT equality, rights of the incarcerated, and expanding First Amendment protections for the people of Louisiana. After 10 years at the helm, it’s time to turn the work over to new leadership that can steer this organization to even greater heights."

No successor has been named.

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Thursday, September 28, 2017

New Orleans warrant clinic set for Sept. 30

Posted By on Thu, Sep 28, 2017 at 9:30 AM


New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice's Stand With Dignity hosts a warrant clinic Saturday, Sept. 30, the group's second event with Orleans Parish municipal and traffic court officials to help reduce or waive fines and fees for people with outstanding warrants.

More than 1,200 people attended the group's warrant clinic held earlier this year, with each person owing an average of $8,000 in court fines, according to | The Times-Picayune. Fines owed were reduced or exchanged for community service, and warrants for misdemeanor offenses were cleared. The clinic also helps people reinstate suspended drivers' licenses.

According to Stand With Dignity, the clinic aims to help reduce fees and fines that burden disproportionately lower-income residents, unable to pay for hefty fees that later snowball into potentially devastating costs, threats of arrest or suspended licenses, which create barriers to jobs and other opportunities.

The clinics "combat criminalization and expand opportunity while saving the city millions of dollars in court and incarceration costs — far more than the value of the fines and fees that are waived," according to Stand With Dignity.

Thousands of people in New Orleans have outstanding warrants for minor offenses, or are facing thousands of dollars in traffic fees. More than 500 people are expected to participate in this Saturday's clinic. New Orleans Municipal Judge Paul Sens will facilitate.

The clinic runs from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday at St. Peter Claver School (1019 N. Prieur St.).

Deadline to pre-register is Thursday, September 28, 2017 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. in person at 217 N. Prieur St. Visit the Stand With Dignity's website for more information.

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Thursday, September 7, 2017

New Orleans rally to defend DACA calls on candidates, city leaders to stand with immigrants

Posted By on Thu, Sep 7, 2017 at 12:30 AM

Demonstrators in New Orleans marched against Trump's decision to end the DACA program. - PHOTO BY KAT STROMQUIST
  • Demonstrators in New Orleans marched against Trump's decision to end the DACA program.

Karla Rosas didn't grow up thinking of herself as "undocumented."

She came to the U.S. from Mexico as a child, grew up in Louisiana, did well in school and served on her homecoming court. "It wasn't until I turned 16 that things were a a little different for me," she told a crowd outside City Hall Sept. 6. "I couldn't get a driver's license, my mom got nervous around cops, words people called me started to sting more."

Rosas is among more than 2,000 young people in Louisiana whose futures are uncertain following President Donald Trump's decision to end the Deferred Action against Childhood Arrivals program, which has granted U.S. entry to more than 800,000 "dreamers" who came to the country as minors.

"DACA, for me, when that decision came out, the clouds lifted over my head," Rosas said. "It wasn't surprising — I don't think anyone with DACA didn't know this was coming — but it still hurts, it's still sad. I felt like everything was pulled out from under me."

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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Photos from the Sept. 6 rally and march supporting DACA [slideshow]

Posted By on Wed, Sep 6, 2017 at 10:49 PM

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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

New Orleans groups, officials condemn Trump's decision to end DACA program

Posted By on Tue, Sep 5, 2017 at 5:35 PM

Protesters outside City Hall following Trump's January immigration order. - PHOTO BY KAT STROMQUIST
  • Protesters outside City Hall following Trump's January immigration order.

Protests across the country erupted following President Donald Trump's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which has granted U.S. entry to thousands of immigrants who came to the country as minors. The fates of roughly 800,000 young people in the program — which includes 2,000 people in Louisiana — will be left to Congress to decide, as Trump's administration begins to phase out the program in 2018.

New Orleans advocates for immigrants rights plan a protest at Duncan Plaza outside City Hall Sept. 6 beginning at 4:30 p.m. The demonstration is organized by Spanish-speaking parent advocacy group Nuestra Voz NOLA.

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Monday, August 21, 2017

Y@ Speak: partially eclipsed

Posted By on Mon, Aug 21, 2017 at 6:15 PM

If you didn't fry your eyes while looking directly into the sun, which is a totally normal thing you should do at any time, catch up with a week of New Orleans protests against monuments, white supremacy and the Sewerage & Water Board.

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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Massive crowd in New Orleans marches against white supremacy and in solidarity with Charlottesville

Posted By on Sat, Aug 19, 2017 at 7:00 PM

Large crowds filled Decatur Street in front of Jackson Square and on the steps across the street. - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • Large crowds filled Decatur Street in front of Jackson Square and on the steps across the street.

As temperatures reached above 100 degrees, Nana Anoa Nantambu sang from a microphone to a growing crowd at Congo Square. Hundreds of people sang along as she led them through "we're gonna stand" and replaced "this little light of mine" with "standing for justice and freedom."

Rev. Marie Galatas asked the crowd to bow its head and pray in silence for Heather Heyer, the woman killed by in Charlottesville, Virginia, during protests against neo-Nazis and fascists rallying in the city to support a Robert E. Lee monument.

On Aug 19, hundreds of people in New Orleans gathered to honor Heyer and victims of attacks in Charlottesville and also challenge city leaders to reconsider Jim Crow-era landmarks with a renewed call for their removal, particularly as the city begins to celebrate its tricentennial. Take 'Em Down NOLA — the latest incarnation of local activists and civil rights advocates demanding the removal of Confederate monuments — organized the Charlottesville solidarity march from Congo Square in Armstrong Park to Jackson Square.

"To the people of Charlottesville, we stand with them," said Take 'Em Down NOLA organizer Malcolm Suber from the steps across from Jackson Square, "and we stand against oppression, we stand against exploitation, and we stand against racism."

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