About 150 homeless campers and activists affiliated with the OccupyNOLA movement were evicted from Duncan Plaza yesterday, Tuesday December 6. They had been occupying the space across from the New Orleans City Hall for two months.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu said that “public health issues, such as unsafe electrical outlets and unsanitary conditions” were part of the motivation for the police sweep. After some homeless were offered temporary shelter, remaining protestors dragged their belongings across the street. “By 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday…dozens of city workers had already piled tents, sleeping bags, and other personal items into dumptrucks parked in the plaza.” The plaza was fully cleared and scrubbed clean with power washers.
Some photos of the forced eviction from WWL.com:
Here are photos that I took in the very same Duncan Plaza on approximately December 21, 2007:
Yes, it looks eerily familiar. In ’07, the encampment was a post-Katrina right-to-affordable-housing protest. Homeless people and those kicked out of the soon-to-be-demolished public housing units were demanding that public housing be reopened and that the city not forget its poorest residents. City-contracted waste removal employees dragged tents and belongings into trash compactors, clearing the plaza, which earlier had been filled with hundreds of homeless people. (See more from my original reporting back then.)
One theory from 2007 that seems perfectly applicable to this recent eviction: that the forced removal was timed for the holiday season beautification and to make sure that tourists didn’t see the tent city. (The Mercedes-Benz Superdome, where the much-beloved New Orleans Saints play, is located nearby.)
So really not much has changed. Much of New Orleans’ public housing stock was demolished even though it wasn’t significantly damaged by Hurricane Katrina. There are little to no viable replacements. People in 2011 are protesting skyrocketing rents and a city government that is out of touch with the needs of the 99%. A forcible eviction of tents in Duncan Plaza comes around Christmas time.
The only good news is that today, a Judge overruled the Mayor’s decision and has allowed occupiers to return to the Plaza, but only for seven days while the judicial reprieve process is worked out.
The only lesson we ever learn is that we never learn.