At MLK Day ceremony, Mayor Cantrell calls for social justice and speaks out against violence | Crime/Police

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In a wreath laying ceremony to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Mayor Latoya Cantrell and other city officials issued a call to fight for suffrage and social justice, but also denounced the increase in armed violence and armed robbery plaguing the city. .

“My heart feels heavy as I call on all residents of our community to show that love which Dr. King believes can drive out darkness wherever it exists,” Cantrell said. “Right now, darkness exists in our community, in our neighborhoods and throughout our city.”

She said it was not enough to dedicate more city resources to the effort, or to leave it solely to the New Orleans Police Department, but ordinary citizens should help both solve crimes and to prevent violence.

Cantrell and several city council members also spoke to MLK in calling for continued work on social justice and suffrage at the ceremony, which was held at King’s memorial on South Claiborne Avenue at the junction with Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Cantrell noted in particular the several dozen people who held signs at the ceremony in support of residents of the Gordon Plaza housing estate, who lobbied for city funding to move them from the old landfill. toxic.

City Council Speaker Helena Moreno spoke about the struggles Democrats have had to pass a nationwide voting rights law to counter restrictive measures in place at Republican statehouses across the country.

“It’s so important that we make sure everyone has the opportunity to vote, everyone,” Moreno said. “We see what’s happening in Washington DC and what I’m saying is don’t get discouraged. We just have to push harder.”

There was no pre-wreath-laying march this year and the rally was sparsely attended as the outbreak of the omicron variant coronavirus truncated events to mark the holiday.

Jefferson Parish holds an annual banquet in honor of the National Day, and school groups and residents carried banners and signs during the procession to downtown Covington on the North Shore.

Photos: Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy is remembered in the New Orleans area

A major theme of the afternoon was the recent spate of carjackings, armed robberies and homicides, which have increased during the pandemic and plagued communities of color.

NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson, at a separate press conference after the wreath laying, noted that suspects believed to have been involved in the series of carjackings over the weekend – specifically five that occurred around from the Uptown campuses of Tulane and Loyola universities – had been apprehended.

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He said the investigation into the spike in violent vehicle thefts over the weekend – 11 from Friday to Sunday, according to NOPD reports – was led by the Crime Prevention Investigation Team. violent, the unit formed just over a year ago that includes the FBI and the Louisiana State Police. tracking violent repeat offenders.

But he said a lenient criminal justice system and laws decriminalizing low-level crimes have hampered the NOPD’s ability to deal with the spike in crime.

“We can make all the arrests we want, but until the rear end of this criminal justice system does its part to ensure accountability and ensure consequences for their actions, we are going to keep our wheels turning. “, Ferguson said.

“We will continue to make arrests but that means nothing if there are no consequences for their actions,” he added.

Moreno issued a press release after the ceremony confirming that Chief Ferguson will address a special council meeting convened this Thursday, Jan. 20, to address the surge in crime. She said District Attorney Jason Williams and unnamed criminal and juvenile court judges will address the council on Monday, January 24.

“I don’t believe the ‘lock everyone down’ approach is effective, but those who commit egregious violent crimes must be arrested and held accountable,” Moreno said in a press release.

Newly elected City Council members at the event who echoed the call for action on crime included Lesli Harris, JP Morrell, Eugene Green, Freddie King III and Oliver Thomas.

Since taking office, Williams has discharged hundreds of cases which he called “fat” and “bloated”, but he and the NOPD said they were putting in place a cooperative plan to provide “focus laser” on violent crime in the city.

Ferguson noted that carjacking only increased 1% in 2021 until the sudden surge in December and January.

However, last year’s increase came on top of a surge in the first year of the pandemic that saw carjackings climb 64.4%, murders 31.6% and thefts cars by 21.4%.

Last year, the murder rate was the highest since before Hurricane Katrina. Among the most heartbreaking were those of more than a dozen children, most recently including Derrick Cash, 12, and Dillan Burton, 7. They attended the same school, Thurgood Marshall, and were murdered 10 days apart in separate incidents.

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