The Chasm of Distrust
Written by Justin Burnell
Thursday, 15 February 2007 20:17
NolaAgainstCrime.com and Silence is Violence were the orchestrators of the march that had thousands of people converge on city hall to speak and protest the lack of results and responsibility shown by police Chief Warren Riley, District Attorney Eddie Jordan, and Mayor Ray Nagin. The march did show that the people of New Orleans are crying out for change. It was a protest against the rising violence and the lack of social responsibility shown by those elected to govern and protect its citizens and community, but the cry was a din of confusion. The people of New Orleans stated that they all want the trend of murder and the rule of the black market to end, but it was even more apparent that no two sects of the city agree on how that change should take place or start.
Nola Against Crime and The Bywater Neighborhood Association called for the heads of Chief Riley and DA Jordan. Nora Natale, one of the founders of NolaAgainstCrime.com, said that the firing of Chief Riley could be taken as a sign to the people that Mayor Nagin was willing to meet the demands and needs of the people. Stating that if given such a gesture, that then the people could then begin to work with and trust their Mayor. These two groups along with Silence is Violence view this time of crisis as one in need of larger government action and response. They feel that if the state and city government could take the first steps and set the corner stones in place then their community could take action and work to ease the disparity between their community and the poorer sections of town. Big government also means a stronger police presence in New Orleans. Many signs held by middle-class-looking white men begged for “national guard in populated areas.” SilenceisViolence.com showed support for this “clean up the streets” mentality. Nola Against Crime wishes to put police back on the street. They want a return to the days of cops on street corners, walking a beat. They feel that this will help bridge the chasm of distrust that stands in front of social change. While this seems like a step that will make part of the population feel safer, some speakers at the march expressed a distrust so deep that the thought of more police in their neighborhood inspired fear instead of relief.
While Nola Against Crime and Silence is Violence offer the views of the middle classes, Safe Streets/Strong Communities represents the ideals and best interests of the lower classes. Safe Streets also feels that the city government is failing its people, but they believe in a more proactive and community oriented approach in solving the bloodshed in New Orleans. Ursula Price, the Orleans Parish coordinator for Safe Streets said the there is no simple answer to the city’s plague of violence. It is an issue with multiple causes, low education, and high poverty only being the contributors that receive the most press. She feels that it is a cultural issue rather than a problem in leadership. A cultural change in a police system which produces more corruption than it investigates, and in communities who are so scared of retaliation they would rather have a murder go unsolved than risk another by speaking to the police, is one which will take years if it is possible at all. Safe Streets believes that the very culture of the NOPD must change because at the moment they say that the police force only weakens the community, as it works to turn citizens against each other and also actively rules poorer neighborhoods by fear and with a disregard for basic respects. A man who marched to city hall behind a Safe Streets/Strong Communities banner held a sign that said, “Convict the Danziger Devils” was surrounded by signs which promoted a stronger police force and harsher judges. His voice seemed silenced by those who would rather hang their leaders than look at the state of the community that they either live in or are surrounded by. Safe Streets does not wish to blame one group completely, they hold that the only way for New Orleans to change is for the community and the police to stop feeding into and on each other’s fears. They feel that it is time to slowly revamp the police system and to grow more community oriented as a city.
Beef is a deadly word here. Guns are second nature. Jermaine Tucker, a.k.a. 6 Shot, said, “Catch me ridin’ in the bucket with it/ I rather be caught with it than without it/ ‘Cause New Orleans niggas’ ‘bout it,” about guns, and the violent mentality that brings that city to a boiling point. Thousands marched on city hall. We all marched together and voiced differing opinions, but they all had at least the intention of being constructive. It was a start, but more telling was when the event ended and the group was asked to leave as one group in the name of and a showing of solidarity; the group separated trying to find the quickest route to their cars or back to their homes. It seems nothing short of a cultural revolution will keep the communities together for longer than a moment. It’s about people, not the body count.
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