Protests heat up as razing of New Orleans public
09:53 PM CST on Thursday, December 6, 2007
Cain Burdeau / Associated Press
Protesters angry about the pending demolition of
dozens of public housing buildings stormed a City
Council meeting Thursday in a confrontation that ended
with a prominent civil rights lawyer being hauled off
Thursday's fracas was a taste of what's likely to come
in the ensuing weeks as former residents and advocates
seek to stop the demolition of more than 4,000 public
housing units at a time when New Orleans is in the
midst of an acute housing shortage because of
The protesters gathered at the City Council chambers
to demand the council's members stop the demolitions.
But when the council took no action, the protesters
broke into chants and shouts and forced Arnie Fielkow,
the council president, to call the session into
In the ensuing chaos, a civil sheriff's deputy grabbed
and shoved civil rights lawyer Bill Quigley up against
the wall where he was handcuffed. Quigley has led a
legal fight against the demolitions. The deputy's
report said Quigley allegedly refused to leave the
premises and shouted "I'm not going anywhere."
Quigley said he saw no reason for being detained and
taken to a sheriff's trailer on the grounds of City
Hall. He was released shortly afterward and cited with
a charge of disturbing the peace.
"We live in a system where if you cheer or chant in
the City Council you get arrested but you can demolish
4,500 people's apartments and everybody's supposed to
go along with that? That's not going to happen,"
Quigley said. "There's going to be a lot more
disturbing the peace before this is all over, I'm
There are few road blocks left to stop wrecking crews
from taking down the public housing buildings. A
federal judge has refused to stop the demolitions as
have Congress and city officials. Demolitions could
start as early as Dec. 15.
The demolitions are part of a plan Alphonso Jackson,
the secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and
Urban Development, pushed for after Katrina hit on
Aug. 29, 2005. HUD's goal is a wholesale redevelopment
of the city's public housing by tearing down the old
barracks-style buildings and replacing them with
To that end, HUD closed down most of the city's public
developments after the storm, prompting residents and
advocates to castigate HUD's plan as a callous attempt
to expurgate poor blacks from New Orleans.
The redevelopment plan has grown more emotional since
it was unveiled in mid-2006 as tens of thousands of
former residents and other poor residents found
themselves unable to find housing in New Orleans
because of a housing shortage and inflated rents.
Critics of the plan say the redevelopment plan will
drive poor people from neighborhoods where they have
lived for generations, but HUD denies that and says
the plan will create an equal amount of affordable
housing as existed before Katrina hit.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights