Deputy Weeps at NOLA Protest

This from AP

: “Police used chemical spray and stun guns Thursday as dozens of protesters tried to force their way into a packed City Council chamber during a debate on the planned demolition of some 4,500 public housing units.” Protesters said “the Housing Authority of New Orleans had disproportionately allowed supporters of the demolition to pack the chambers.”

So now it’s not only New Orleans housing stock that will be ethnically cleansed—a slight exaggeration, but obviously the point has been ever since Katrina to get blacks, who vote overwhelmingly Democratic, out of the city. Now it’s also the democratic process that will be cleansed of those who might undermine “peace and stability in the region,” as the establishment saying goes.

But here’s the most interesting part of the story. About 70 protesters faced 40 police on foot and a dozen on horseback, but the protesters refused to disappear. Eventually, in the face of the protests, “One sheriff’s deputy wept on the city hall side of the gate and was comforted by his comrades.” Nonviolence, Gandhi said, will melt the stoniest heart. For him, it was a matter of faith. But it’s always good to have a bit of evidence. Apparently this deputy did not have the stoniest heart of all. It’s just a beginning. Who knows how his tears affected his ‘comrades’? (Interesting word choice there.) Who knows where it will end?

To learn more about the demonstrators’ concerns, see http://www.defendneworleanspublichousing.org

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More on the story yesterday out of New Orleans, where people protesting the demolition of public housing were blocked from entering a city council hearing, then assaulted by police with pepper spray and stun guns. Though some speakers who did get into the hearing opposed the plan, the council passed it unanimously.

The version of the AP article that appeared in my local newspaper was long, but omitted the description of the sheriff’s deputy weeping and being comforted by comrades. Maybe it was just a bit too much for some editor somewhere to acknowledge that police who assault nonviolent protesters can be so moved.

The irony is that this would never have been big national news if the police had not used so much violence. Journalists who dig deeper would have asked whether this particular group of protesters was part of the large movement of congregation-based community organizing (CBCO) that has been a major political force in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina (though it was already well underway long before that). CBCO deserves to get more public credit than it has received. It’s a powerful movement across the country that brings faith together with creative efforts for social and economic justice.

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