… was one of the signs we carried. Several parents pushed empty strollers that read “future of our city??” along with the signs. Other signs included: “No Children — No City,” “No Child is born a killer,” “Children’s Laughter is NOLA’s Music,” “NOLA’s Children: Long Neglected and Unprotected,” and pictures of Francis with “Friends of Francis” labels.
The March and Rally were initially organized by the Marigny/Bywater community and anticipated maybe a few hundred people. Over 1,000 met them at the base of Canal Street. When we began to walk up Canal and over to Poydras, the crowd began to explode. It is hard to explain exactly how it happened, but people seemed to be pouring in from everywhere… coming down out of office buildings, meeting up with the crowd from side-streets. I was in heaven taking pictures, standing on curbs or other elevated surfaces to snap pictures as the crowd went by — and the way it kept growing was surprising, and energizing.
I had heard that several neighborhoods organizations were gathering to march to City Hall separately. So when our crowd (from Canal Street) got to City Hall, we were met by other groups coming from different parts of the city. Estimates put the numbers of people somewhere between 3,000-5,000 people. Considering that the city’s current population is roughly 200,000 people, that is an incredibly high turnout — and on a mid-week workday!
I’ve been to several Marches and Rallys, walked the picket line with the Union at Michigan, attended the March for Women’s Lives in DC (which, I believe, holds the record as the country’s largest march at 1.2 million people). In my experience, this was by far the most passionate and emotional event I’ve attended. The energy was palatable; it seemed to hold us all together in a mix of diversity that others tell me is unprecedented in this divisive city.
Speakers represented various neighborhoods and experiences. No political official was allowed to speak (even when some called for the Mayor, who stood quietly behind the speakers microphones) clarifying that this event was specifically about allowing the people of New Orleans to be heard. I was so thankful for this. We needed the event to specifically be about our anger, our vulnerability, and our ideas.
The statement that resonated in me and that stays with me came from Reverend John Raphael, (whose fantastic speech may be viewed through that link) who said,
“New Orleans maybe the city that care forgot. But today, we declare that New Orleans will never again be the city that forgot to care.”