Apr 082013

Hundreds of people fill Jeanette Street as they silently walk with candles in a protest against violence in west Carrollton. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Just after dark on Sunday evening, for the third time in 24 hours, the blue lights of police cruisers passed down Jeanette Street behind the streetcar barns.

This time, though, there were no sirens. In fact, there was hardly a sound as hundreds of candle-carrying people followed on foot behind the police cars in silent contemplation of the blood that continues to spill in west Carrollton and around New Orleans.

Coming together
Organized in response to the April 1 shooting of 18-year-old AmeriCorps volunteer Joe Massenburg, the march was still being announced Saturday when two men were injured in a shooting around 10 p.m. at the corner of Jeanette and Monroe streets. Around 4:30 p.m. Sunday — less than four hours before the march was to begin — another shooting injured two more men at the same intersection, which is about a block from where Massenburg was killed.

Investigators believe the two shootings this weekend were “likely related” to each other, said NOPD Second District Commander Paul Noel, though neither showed any ties to Massenburg’s death.

Andreas Hoffman, left, and others hold their candles as they wait for the long line of marchers to return to the corner of Jeanette and Dublin. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

“Since his killing on Monday, there has been more violence in the area,” said Andreas Hoffman of Green Light New Orleans, the energy-efficiency nonprofit where Massenburg was volunteering, and one of the organizers of the march. “I think it’s important that we get together, and get together as a community. It’s together that we can do something.”

As dusk fell, several hundred people gathered for the march. Many were longtime residents of the neighborhood, and many others wore AmeriCorps insignia on their shirts and jackets. Vermont native Felicia Bosley, who spent three years rebuilding homes through the program, said volunteers not only work together but also live together.

“We are family,” she said. “That’s why I’m here, to show support for my family, and for his family. … I think this will have us come closer together.”

Silent message
Before the walk began, organizers asked that the marchers not speak as they walked. John “Moose” Glenn, a member of the Pigeontown Steppers, said it was a completely different approach from other anti-crime marches he has participated in, but that its message would be just as clear.

“It makes them focus and makes them aware,” Glenn said. “Silence is more effective than being vocal.”

As the marchers walked down Jeanette, doorways opened, and neighbors called to family members from inside to see. As the group rounded onto Eagle toward Birch, something pop-popped in the distance, and an old man on a nearby balcony speculated, “That’s gunshots right there.”

The group marched past the white dove painted on Eagle with the date “4-1-2013” marking where Massenburg was slain and headed down Birch, passing a corner establishment. Several people with drinks in their hand laughed at first, and then someone on the curb called out, “Stop the violence!”

The marchers passed the dark hulk of the old Priestly school, which neighbors have fought for years to have renovated and reopened as a neighborhood school that would breathe new life into the community. An older woman stood on the opposite side of the street, her hands clasped behind her back, nodding in understanding at any of the marchers who looked her way.

At the next intersection, two more women walked up to see the crowd. “Thank God for this visual,” one woman cried out. “Somebody cares! Praise the Lord!”

  • Thanks, Robert, for a good article about a very moving evening. Easter Sunday, some of us marched behind the Pigeontown Steppers in joy; last night was a very different purpose. Moose is right–a silent march is a different anti-crime march for us; the reflective, unified somberness was appropriate. I thank Andreas for that. Some shed tears when we paused at the corner of Eagle and Birch. There is great power in a unified group. We feel it at festivals, parades, Saints games. Perhaps we could manage it for more serious goals, too. I noted that a number of people came to their windows and doors, to the sidewalk and curbs, bowing their heads and exchanging “alrights” with marchers as we passed. Echoing one of last year’s anti-crime marches, one guy shouting “Stop the violence! Bring the peace!”

  • I thought those two pops were gunshots, too. For me, one of the most cogent visuals was on Jeanette, almost to Eagle–a young woman, wearing a scarf almost like a tignon, held a toddler in her arms as they watched us from behind a door protected by jailhouse burglar bars.

    • Kent

      Those pops were indeed gunshots. They occurred around the corner of Plum and Leonidas. The cops were there quickly and looked for casings but found none. Glad the march was in the area, or there wouldn’t have been police around to stop the violence.

  • Black Bird

    I was born in Louisiana, but spent most of my life in a small mountain town in the Rockies. I’m back here briefly for medical school. As such I have a somewhat unique view on the city/state. Things are catastrophically broken here; that much is undeniable. I read the articles here almost daily. I see the news. I hear the locals talk and see their protests and walks and vigils. None of that has worked or brought any real change.

    It’s time for some radical change. There are those in this city that act, live and behave like animals. They are predominately black. They will not change. They must be ostracized and somehow made to leave. Permanently. Prison isn’t the answer. Police aren’t the answer. The only answer is that the community (mainly the black community) needs to stand up and permanently remove this element.

    I will very soon leave this amazing city for my favorite place on the planet, but I will always look back at New Orleans and hope that somehow some group here will make the hard and radical choices to finally change things here. God help us all.

  • Thanks, for writing this… for following this story in general.

  • How about limiting the SALE of alcohol in that area for 1, 2, 3 or mile radius? Especially at gas stations, grocery stores, etc to say 2pm on weekends and 12 midnight on weekdays. Try it for 3 years and watch what happens to that area.

    They did that in Fat City and look what happened.

    All this new redevelopment. INSTANTLY, a drop in crime.

    You will also put a lot less strain on the NOPD as well.

  • I live a few blocks away and I am afraid to drive over on Eagle Street during the day. The people that went on that walk had a lot of courage.

  • We need our community center that was allocated over 4 years ago. Prayer and awareness is good, now lets call our State Rep., State Sen., Council and Mayor to get on board to move our community forward.
    #turn in guns for career training