Last Updated: Wednesday, February 01, 2017

On-site: The Battle Of New Orleans (Part 2)
Updated: Wednesday, September 28, 2016

New Orleans police protecting the city's most famous monument. Some protesters threatened to pull down the statue of President Andrew Jackson. Photo: Crowdsafe (c) 2016

The Big Easy was a little tense about a protest targeting the iconic Andrew Jackson monument in the city’s French Quarter (Saturday, September 24). A few community leaders targeting the statue as a racist symbol swore it would be toppled at the protest. Mr. Jackson, seventh president of the United States was also a legendary military hero. His career has special meaning to New Orleans, having defeated the British in 1815 in the legendary Battle of New Orleans. But, the former president was also a slave owner. And the protestors, under the banner of “Take 'Em Down” are pursuing the removal of all monuments of southern civil war heroes and others who condoned slavery or owned slaves.

New Orleans police---experts in crowd management---took every precaution. From roof tops to street surveillance to Jackson Square horse patrols, dozens of police officers (and sheriff deputies) could be seen. Officers wore common street dress and looked sharp. They mingled easily with the public. Riot control uniformed officers were kept out of sight of the park populace.

A “T” barricade system of extra strong interlocking barricades was erected around the elevated larger than life statue of President Jackson waving his hat with his right hand as he sits astride his horse reared back on hind legs.

The barricade system isolated the monument from public access and split the park into sections (each with the equivalent of an entrance and exit). The design mimicked the “T” barricade system common at many rock concerts. It even had a center protruding channel that jutted toward the fenced park’s main entrance on Decatur Street. Law enforcement officers in causal short sleeved blue uniform shirts positioned themselves behind the barricades. The officers did not wear helmets. They stood hatless in the hot sun.

The park was locked when the first “Take 'Em Down” counter-protestor arrived before noon: David Duke,PhD. Mr. Duke, accompanied by a handful of supporters and a bullhorn, is a well-known figure in the state and across the country. Mr. Duke ran for President twice, was once elected to the Louisiana legislature, is currently running for the U.S. Senate and was a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

Initially, he drew little attention from tourists and locals. But, in time he attracted a couple of African-American citizens who engaged him in a shouting tirade. One young man was eventually arrested, after repeated warnings to calm down. As the young man became more irrational and began to push against Mr. Duke’s entourage, police took action and arrested the protestor. Mr. Duke moved around the park espousing his philosophy of separation of the races, argued for saving the city’s historic, but controversial, monuments and pronouncements on various political issues. Mr. Duke was often shouted down. Undeterred, he brushed aside his critics without losing his cool. He voluntarily left the square before the anti-monument “Take 'Em Down” protestors arrived in the hundreds sometime before 2 pm.

The African-American led rally of predominately white protestors was peaceful, well organized and nonviolent. A menacing component of the rally was a masked contingent of college-age whites. They were kept in check by African-American rally leaders, Nevertheless, the group of approximately a dozen appeared poised to take advantage of any disorder that might occur.

Approximately 300 protestors filled the square. But, honestly, at times it was difficult to differentiate protestors from friendly tourists and casual onlookers. Everyone had a camera and the different groups of people mixed easily while many of them earnestly debated the issue surrounding the Jackson statue.

. But, there were scuffles.

The most serious incident occurred when an anti-monument protestor intentionally walked into protestors at the barricade’s systems center protruding section (see photo), the epicenter of the protest. A scuffle developed---more like a wrestling match---between the white counter protestor and an African-American “Take 'Em Down” supporter. Police behind and the mounted patrol, both behind the barricade, quickly intervened. Officers opened a section of the protruding barricade to allow the horse detail to enter the crowd. But, it was clumsily executed and threatened the well-being of people in the vicinity.

Another scuffle occurred at the same location when several protestors tried, but failed to dismantle barricades in to reach the Jackson monument. A tussle occurred between police and protestors pulling on the barricade at the apex of the protrusion. One protestor was arrested and calm was restored. The barricade weathered the political storm.

Toward the end of the rally, a lone projectile was thrown at the police detail, again, at the barricade’s hot spot. Immediately, an African-American protest leader raised up above the crowd and demanded respect be shown police officers and admonished the anonymous thrower to stop. No more projectiles were launched after that point.

In all, seven people were arrested before “Take 'Em Down” proponents ended their rally around 2:30 pm.

President Andrew Jackson looked on as the protestors slowly moved down Decatur. “Take 'Em Down” protestors pledged to continue their fight. Tourists again took over Jackson Square. Police signed in relief.




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