I’m speaking at today’s march for five minutes, a task for which I feel utterly inadequate. I’ve been trying to collect my thoughts. Here’s what I’m planning to say:

Helen Hill was a close personal friend of mine, and her murder affected me deeply. Helen’s funeral took place yesterday in South Carolina, and today we’re marching in New Orleans. But make no mistake: We’re not marching just for Helen Hill. We’re marching for Dick Shavers. We’re marching for Jealina Brown. We’re marching for Steve Blair and Corey Hayes and Eddy Saint Fleur and Monier Gindy. We’re marching for Don Morgan and Larry Glover and Mike Frey. We’re marching for Preston Turner, a 15-year-old child who was gunned down in broad daylight on the street corner near my house in Mid-City, back in 2004. And does anybody remember that day in June of 2004 where nine people were killed by guns in just over 24 hours?

This is not a new problem. It’s not a Katrina problem. Katrina just provided a momentary interruption. This wave of violent crime has been on the rise for years and it had left us feeling sad and scared and very, very angry. I’m still sad, but they tell me you learn to cope with that. I’m still scared but anyone who’s lived in New Orleans for a while knows you learn to cope with that too. But the anger sticks around. And that’s why we’re here. Fear keeps you in your house, but anger drives you out into the streets.

But there’s another feeling that doesn’t get talked about as much and that’s shame. I think we all feel a sense of shame — or we should — because this murderous violent society is our society.

Fueling our anger is the perception that our leaders do not share our fear and our sense of shame. And so today I want to say shame on you, Mayor Nagin, Superintendent Riley, District Attorney Jordan. You’ve really let us down. You have failed us. The criminal justice system and the government is broken. And I want to communicate to you the level of outrage that my friends and neighbors are feeling, because we don’t think you get it. Families that have lived in New Orleans for over 300 years are talking about leaving. People displaced by the flood are saying they are afraid to come back. That is the level of hopelessness and despair. They’d like you to step up and just do your jobs — but they don’t think you can. They’d like you to step down and resign — but they’re afraid you’d be replaced with equally incompetent people. Many of my neighbors believe that we need to see the federal government step in and literally take over New Orleans, or at least the criminal justice system. The feeling seems to be that even FEMA couldn’t screw up any worse than we have. At first I thought that was a joke. But it seems more possible every day, and there’s nothing funny about that.

Leaders, you need to do something that many of us think you can’t do. You need to be honest. You need to admit that what you’re doing isn’t working, and plan a return to true community policing. I’ve got an article here from six years ago that praises New Orleans as a model for how to reduce violent crime. Between 1994 and 1999 the murder rate here went down 65%. The credit goes to something called community policing, decentralizing personnel into neighborhoods, with increased responsibilities and accountability for district commanders. Of course to do community policing we will need more police, and that means better pay, so that a cop can get assigned to just one or two zones and really get to know that neighborhood, and neighbors can know them. Let’s get back to that.

But we also need to think of creative solutions outside traditional law enforcement strategies. We desperately need to experiment with some kind of decriminalization, to eliminate the black market for drugs. Some will say that’s too radical, but we say there’s nothing too radical when the stakes are this high.

Of course we want action, not rhetoric. Above all we want results. We must have a higher felony conviction rate. The national average is 57%. Our current rate is 7%. We must see a reduction in crime, and especially violent crime, and that is the bottom line. But how will we know whether or not this is being achieved? That is why we must have full, independently audited, disclosure of crime statistics.

We know that law enforcement alone can’t solve these problems. We need long-term solutions too. We must have better schools. We must have an economy beyond tourism. We must pay workers a living wage. We must fight racism and classism. It will take all of us. It will take community involvement. Well, look around. The community IS involved. And we will stay involved. To our political class: You’re on notice. We will be watching.

Edit: Just after I posted this, my old boss and friend Todd S. called me and advised that the final sentences (about coming back to City Hall with pitchforks and torches to “burn the castle down”) hit a discordant note. He was right. I deleted that portion immediately. Thanks, Todd.

Update: I will apparently be bringing this message to Anderson Cooper 360 tonite. CNN, show at 9PM, I’m on at 9:20 or so. That’s Central time. I’ll try to rise to the occasion.

Update: Geoffrey posted audio of all the speakers at the rally. Scout Prime posted the video of Editor B on AC 360.

91 thoughts on “Speech”

  1. Bart — that was a great speech, as everyone else has said, and right on target. I am in Massachusetts for several weeks, but I was in NOLA in spirit all day yesterday. If anything can give us hope as a community, it is our sense of ourselves as a community, and your words helped to focus and articulate that sense. Your remarks on community policing were, I thought, especially valuable.

  2. Bart-

    Thank you for putting your thoughts and our collective feelings into a speech. New Orleans is worth fighting for. We must keep the heat on, particularly with Eddie Jordan’s completely incompetent DA’s office. We need to march there next and ask why specific murder victims have still not had their accused murderers go to trial.

    Long live MID CITY!

  3. speaking truth to power! i couldn’t make it physically but i was praying with you guys marching and Bart with all my heart thanks for speaking the truth. On behalf of my 2 sons growing up 11th generation New Orleanians, and all the children at our school bus stop exactly where Dick Shavers died, thank you. We are acting to save ourselves sure but its the next generation that will really benefit if we can do better by them, bring on structural/institutional changes . If anyone is interested in how we care for our young people, compare the recent infrastructure investments at the new jails at Tulane and Broad versus paint over mildew at John McDonough High School at Esplanade and Broad. The government-driven criminalization of young black people perpetuates basically a slave class, which in turn creates desperation. Once they have a record they can’t get scholarships and they have no tangible reasons for hope. I would include the Recovery School District in the list of those accountable. They took over our schools with the promise of something better but they have not delivered. The conditions in the schools are fueling personal level desperations and conflicts. For instance, Dick Shavers was killed by a John Mac “Downtown” student upset over territory with a student from Uptown. Well these young people have been through hell and back and they have not received counseling or ever been taught conflict resolution. The education leaders at the state level see no value in teaching conflict resolution and have actually resisted bring these types of healing programs into the state-run schools. Our schools are not being allowed to flourish and our people are not being allowed to heal, much less supported and encouraged. (My neighbor, totally not political, said ‘our own bureaucracies are our own worst enemies’) All we have is each other and our selves, and I am so proud of you and Karen and everybody for going out and representing. Maybe as important as the “leaders” hearing you is everybody walking together. We have to take our city in our hands and do it right so we can do right by each other. On a person to person level, that’s all we want and we know it more than ever. The leaders can feel that and stop working against us or they will be moved out the way. How do we react to the next murder? Well I know of some more justice actions planned in the near future which relate because our whole society is so unjust. Let’s continue to support each other and strengthen our local abilities to handle things for ourselves because WE CARE ABOUT EACH OTHER. Thanks again Bart for speaking, you have a true heart and you did a great job.

  4. The city (Orleans Parish) has been declining for decades. I am a ninth generation New Orleanian, my daughter is a tenth. She is at Tulane Law School right now. My family dates from the Livaudais Plantation (Uptown New Orleans) and had the name Delachaise (one block from Louisiana Ave) from the laChaise section of Paris. My mother’s generation had to abandon the city and head for Jefferson because of the decline of the city, its services, and increased costs, and risks. Now, there is no need for Jefferson because the economy of N.O. is dead. There is not enough economy to maintain the suburbs. Who needs an expensive home in Metairie if there aren’t good jobs to support it? The city politics are inept and/or corrupt. Racism is rampant and the most racist are now the blacks. The governor treats everyone like a third grader and the legislature runs roughshod over her “leadership.” Our state continues to shrink relative to surrounding states; losing another U.S. representative, are we? Even Missiissippi looks good by comparison. Our experience in other cities while we were away following Katrina could not have been better. There are wonderful places out there to live: places with friendly people, good schools, lower taxes, less corruption, and most of all a booming economy. We are now looking for the city/town of our future. I remember when Houston and Atlanta looked just like N.O. Now they have four million people each and everyone who wants to work can have a good job. They have head offices of Fortune 500 companies, leaders who understand what makes for a healthy city and offer value for the taxes paid. We will miss New Orleans and its suburbs. We will rebuild a future, a better future, an easier life, and a less stressful retirement outside of New Orleans. Good luck in rebuilding our city, I am too old to wait 50 years to see the recovery…if it happens at all. Remember Nagin’s response to Garland’s question, “My plan is to not have a plan.” You will need that good luck. I hope you can maintain the rich culture of the area, but I think not. But, I will enjoy returning as a tourist, if you can get it together.

  5. Great work Bart. I too attended the rally and was moved by all of its speakers. Yours in particular was articulate and forceful.

    I have lost 2 family members to murder here in New Orleans; it is an understatement to say that New Orleans suffers from neglect. That type of neglect is perfectly illustrated by Donald Olsen above. If you don’t have a stake in this game, if you’re not going to help, if all you can do is say that we’re doomed, if you wish for affirmation of your grass-is-greener mentality, then you came to the wrong chat board. Go Donald, go to whatever city you like. You provide nothing here with your pessimistic faux analysis. The fact that your family is a long time resident of New Orleans doesn’t mean that you care, it actually means that you share in the responsibility for what New Orleans is now (good and bad). If you choose to take no responsibility and offer no help then, by definition, you are already not a member of this community. I’m sorry to say that your post reveals a level of selfishness that the speakers admonished at the rally.

    The murder of one of my family members still traumatizes me 20 years later. It made me realize that I should live my life not in a better place, but to make the place I live better.

  6. Terrific speech. I was so proud to be a part of the march. It shows that New Orleans has a lot of good people and we do care.

  7. You were amazing. When I saw you on AC I thought “Is that b.rox?” I had only seen stills of you and I wasn’t sure.

    I wish I could have been there to march with you all. My heart is in New Orleans and I’ll be there this weekend to support our team.

  8. one of the more sublime moments yesterday was when you said

    “And so today I want to say shame on you, Mayor Nagin, Superintendent Riley, District Attorney Jordan.”

    a cop gave two short blasts on his siren in solidarity.

  9. I agree with Rick….a great moment! You spoke for all of us who are sick & tired & determined to make the 3 accountable. We want our city back!
    Sorry I missed meeting you in person but I did meet Xy.
    God bless

  10. B,

    This is amazing. Overnight it seems, you have become a symbol for New Orleanians. You have become the type of person I wish I was. I know you have been a part of the “media” industry for a long time now, but how did you feel while on AC 360? I saw the clip on youtube, and you looked nervous.

    I’ll wait til this cools down some to go in depth about the merchandise thing.

    Peace til then, and I hope to see you in the spring!

  11. Bart, from here in Virginia I’ve been seeing your name pop up in the national media–online, on TV, and today, this Saturday morning, you and your friend Holman are quoted in the Washington Post, which is not so unusual in itself except the story is in the sports page in a front page story about, ostensibly the playoff game tonight. The story however gives as many words to the march and you and Michael’s comments and the overall frustration of the city as it does to football. A lot of people would just as soon not hear about the continued problems of New Orleans but good for you and all the others who are involved for not making that an option. On the sports page for godsake, good work.

  12. I am so proud of you, Bart. I am listening to Brian Denzer’s rebroadcast on WTUL now, I was in front of the podium listening to your delivery. I was pulling for you and you really did an amazing job. We all need to follow through on the points outlined by Silence is Violence and keep City Hall and Feds on the task. Transparency and access to crime stats, a new D.A., focus on education and sustainable economic development. Bravo, Bart.

  13. Bart’s speech seems to have expressed what so many people in and from New Orleans are feeling. I’m glad that he (and Wendy King and Amy and others) got beyond our fury at the short-term need for better policing and criminal justice, to point to the long-term solutions, without which no amount of militarizing of the city will end crime (just look at Baghdad). We need decent public services: education, physical and mental health facilities, water and sewerage, a more efficient energy system (water still lin the gas lines!), trash collection (why not with recycling? Where did that go?), all the understaffed city offices, and housing (including public housing projects now sitting empty!), fire and police protection, street repair and signage, public transportation, etc., etc., etc. We must demand speedier and more efficient spending of federal assistance to meet these desperate needs, without which we have no jobs and no place for workers who do have jobs to live. Yes, let’s light a fire under Minor Nagin, or boot him out of office.

  14. I am in total support of the people of New Orleans. As a videogrpher and web blogger, I have been documenting what the people have been doing to rebuild their lives. I’ve also been on the receiving end of the so called, “police crack down on crime”. Just after the hurricanes, while providing food and water to survivors the police and national guard were very abrasive toward grassroots relief efforts.

    Over the last 17 months, no effort has been made by the city to provide safety for the people. It is just like a war zone and the federal government, city officials and police are acting like a occupying force rather than a public service.

  15. Social Justice, Not more cops!

    Why Bart Everson and his é─˛anticrimeé─˘ fighters will not provide real security.

    After reading Bart Everson’s speech delivered at the January 11 rally at city hall, identifying the main demands he made, and placing it, furthermore, in the context in which it was delivered, I found it dangerous, and clearly not consistent with the values of the late social justice activist Helen Hill. I did not find the progressive content you saw. In addition, the fact that Everson isé─ţor at least had been– a leading activist in the Green party in New Orleans, and nationally, which claims to be a social justice, pro-environment, antiracist, peace group, the speech he delivered, the demands he made, and event he supported, should be of concern to the members and leaders of this group. Does Everson speak for the Greens? Do they share his sentiments?

    I agree with Malcolm, that reopening and expanding public services is key for creating real security. But, as I will show in a review of Eversoné─˘s central demands, this is not what he was advocating, but rather more repression. His message was consistent with the overall character, and tenor of this right wing, white, middle class dominated, march.

    If we really want security we should not be rallying behind Everson and others with their right wing é─˛anti-crimeé─˘ rallies, but joining with the anti-racist, working class social movements in this city, such as the struggle to reopen public housing. Join us on MLK day in front of the St Bernard, to demand real justice and security, not more cops, more surveillance cameras, more police roadblocks, and the, é─˛securityé─˘ of emerging racist police state that Everson and his gang are pushing

    The text of the speech can be accessed at:


    1. Everson stated, in his remarks before the some 4,000 people assembled, that the cityé─˘s increased crime/security problem had nothing to do with Katrina:

    é─˙This is not a new problem. Ité─˘s not a Katrina problem. Katrina just provided a momentary interruption. This wave of violent crime has been on the rise for years and it had left us feeling sad and scared and very, very angry.é─¨

    This works to cover the way that the inadequate response, indeed criminal response, of, primarily, the federal government, has created extreme suffering for people, and contributed greatly to the security problems.

    2. His failure to not connect the security problems to Katrina is consistent with him totally letting off the hook the Bush administration, and only focusing on local officials:

    é─˙And so today I want to say shame on you, Mayor Nagin, Superintendent Riley, District Attorney Jordan. Youé─˘ve really let us down. You have failed us. The criminal justice system and the government is broken.é─¨

    While local officials should be criticized, Everson attacks them for the wrong reasons. Does he oppose Naginé─˘s support for demolishing public housing? Or does he é─˛shameé─˘ DA Eddie Jordan for his willingness to prosecute the Danziger 7 murdering cops who brazenly shot and killed two civiliansé─ţwhich many believe was just the tip of the iceberg of the killings NOPD and other é─˛securityé─˘ forces carried out in the aftermath of katrina?
    Clearly many at the march were angry at Jordan for his attempts to prosecute these murders. Various placards attacked Jordan for these prosecutions of é─˛our policeé─˘. Eversoné─˘s speech led no one to believe that he held a different position.

    3. Everson, in his speech, called for greater police penetration of the community, and more snitches, in the name of community policing:

    é─˛Leaders, you need to do something that many of us think you cané─˘t do. You need to be honest. You need to admit that what youé─˘re doing isné─˘t working, and plan a return to true community policingé─ÂOf course to do community policing we will need more police, and that means better pay,..é─˘

    Thats Eversoné─˘s solution: more cops, and more resources for cops, and more snitches. We now have more cops per capita than any where in the country, and the highest incarceration rate. He wants to drive it higher.

    4. Further underscoring Everoné─˘s emphasis on more repression, he bellowed before the overwhelmingly white middle class crowd, in an city that had been 70% African Americans before the storm that:

    é─˛We must have a higher felony conviction rate.é─˘

    5. He decried the fact that many peopleé─ţsome who have family roots dating back 300 years in the cityé─ţand are thinking about leaving New Orleans. Yet he made no mention of the fact about the some 250,000 people doné─˘t have that optioné─ţbecause they have yet to return to the city, over a year since they were forced out!!! Approximately 80% are African Americans, many of whom can also trace their roots back decades. He made no mention of actions, like reopening public housing, that would help people return, and create an important form of securityé─ţthat of housing.

    As an addendum he interjected that:

    é─˙We know that law enforcement alone cané─˘t solve these problems. We need long-term solutions too. We must have better schools. We must have an economy beyond tourism. We must pay workers a living wage. We must fight racism and classismé─¨

    Yet, he has no real specifics hereé─ţdoes he call for the reopening of public housing? Charity hospital? Does better schools mean private charter schools? Does he support rehiring of the fired teachers and the reinstatement their union contract?

    Clearly, Everson remarks and role was consistent with the overall message of the event –more repression and keep poor African Americans in line. That sentiment was clearly reflected in the placard that called for the creation of é─˛green zoneé─˘ in New Orleans, just like in Baghdad.

    If you really want security, we need, as some counter protestors tried to yell amid the cacophony of reactionary voices:

    Social justice, not more cops!!!!

    If you support that call, I encourage you to concretely support this agenda by coming out to the St Bernard housing development on MLK day to support resident right to clean up and return to their homes.

    MLK Day
    Monday, January 15
    10 AM
    3800 block of St. Bernard Ave

    Jay Arena

  16. Great speech. Let’s hope the mayor takes your comments to heart and does something to improve the crime situation in New Orleans.

  17. For those of you who aren’t aware, a Postcard Campaign that has been initiated by Helen’s sister-in-law. Please go to helenhill.org for more details. Thank you…

  18. I’m doing a story about the one-year anniversary of the crime watch. Could you give me a call at (w) 826-3396?


    Katy Reckdahl

  19. Bravo, Bart. I just heard your speech for the first time tonight (8/07/2012).
    Very moved and it brought tears to my eyes. Maybe someday we can talk about this subject.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.