My sleep is interrupted by the peal of a semiautomatic weapon being discharged. Three spurts. Close by. I’m too groggy to check the time but it feels like midnight or two in the morning. Did someone just arrange another funeral? Did someone’s son (or daughter) meet their untimely end? But there’s only silence afterward, no shouts, no sirens. Maybe someone was just firing into the air for the hell of it. I drift back to sleep, uneasy, but too tired to care.
Coincidentally, just after posting this, I got the following message from the good folks at Silence Is Violence. Read on to see their proposal for a citywide strike on Friday, January 9.
December 16, 2008
After two years of refusing to address the crime problem that has paralyzed the city, the mayor last week took a stand against City Council, threatening to cut the budgets of the District Attorney’s office, the Public Defenders Office and the city’s recreation program. At the same time, he pledged to not touch the budgets for anything regarding public safety. Is it possible that after all this time, he still doesn’t get it? Does he not understand that our court system is part of public safety? Does he not see that our recreation programs–already virtually non-existent–are one of the keys to keeping children from getting involved in crime?
Yet he isn’t alone in failing us. Our police department routinely ignores calls and fails to file reports. While members of the City Council have made some very public stands against corruption, many of them fail to respond to issues of crime affecting their constituents. One council member recently claimed that the council “isn’t interested” in addressing the problem. We’ve heard from journalists who have been unable to get police to their street as crime is occurring; we have heard from community leaders who can only reach their council representatives if there is a promise of a public appearance to get their attention; we have heard from business owners who are considering shutting their doors and others who feel the need to protect their employees by carrying their own rifle to work; we have heard from teenagers who feel trapped by the city they are being raised in; and we have heard from parents who are planning to flee the city and raise their children elsewhere.
And still our leaders sit on their hands.
As we approach the second anniversary of the SilenceIsViolence march to City Hall, it has become clear that we once again need to take action. Last year, we stood in front of City Hall and read the names of every citizen who had been killed over the previous year. We did it without a permit, because the city officials responsible for granting permits refused to return our calls. Some of you were there with us; most inhabitants of City Hall were not.
What could possibly get their attention? With their sights so tightly focused on commerce, perhaps the only thing that would get their attention is if we all stayed home and demonstrated what the city would be like without us. When neighborhoods and communities are paralyzed by crime, when tourists stay away out of fear, when young entrepreneurs move elsewhere to open their new businesses, tax dollars are lost and economic energy is stifled. A one-day citywide strike would send a very concrete message of how important our daily safety is to the city’s functioning. But, realistically, few of us can afford to call in sick for a day, so we’ve come up with another variation.
We ask that everyone join us on Friday, January 9th in a citywide “Strike Against Crime.” While this strike does NOT require that people stay home from work, we do hope that each of you will find some way in which you can participate, and spread the news to your colleagues and friends. Think of a tangible action you can take in your workplace, or with your neighbors or community organizations, to speak out about crime, demonstrate how it has affected life in the city of New Orleans, and remind our leaders of how deeply it threatens our ability to function on a day-to-day level. This might take the form of publicly memorializing lost love ones and friends. Or it could be something more playful that strikes from the day something of value that could be lost to crime. Restaurants might strike an item from their menu. Musicians might strike a song from their set. Small business owners could tally their City sales tax receipts for the day and make an equivalent donation to a local charity. We are suggesting that employees wear something red to work on January 9 in a show of support for the Strike Against Crime, and SilenceIsViolence will print materials that can be worn or displayed.
Please let us know what you pledge to do on January 9th. In the coming weeks we’ll compile a list of everyone’s plans to share and inspire each other.
Change is difficult to achieve. But as our recent elections have proven, it is not impossible.
I think that’s a fantastic idea, and I hope anyone reading this will consider joining the strike in some way.