About 20 people gathered in Duncan Plaza on Thursday for a protest called by socialist organization Worker's Voice Newspaper to show their opposition to the siege on the U.S. State Capitol by Trump supporters and political extremists.
“We may be in small numbers, but we cannot leave the arena at a stage of explaining and talking and preparing and organizing to the likes of Pence, McConnell and everyone who allowed the Trump racist white supremacist administration to prevail for four years and make out like they’re some kind of heroes now,” organizer Gabrielle Gemma said, referring to the vice president and senate majority leader turning against President Donald Trump after he gave a speech that incited his supporters to storm the Capitol.
Gemma and others in the group took turns on the microphone to not only oppose Wednesday’s events but to oppose fascism and capitalism. They stood just feet away from the stone monument base that once held the bust of slave owner John McDonough, namesake of some New Orleans schools because of donations he made to public education before his death.
On June 14, 2020, protesters in support of the Black Lives Matter movement toppled the bust with rope and transported it to the edge of Mississippi River, where they dumped it. This happened just days after New Orleans Police Department officers used tear gas and foam and rubber bullets against protesters on the Crescent City Connection bridge.
“The police force would do that to us, and I have no doubt that people would be dead if that were BLM protesters that went to break into the Capitol Building,” organizer Caleb Wassell said to the crowd.
On Thursday it was confirmed that a woman, Ashli Babbett, died after a Capitol Police officer shot her in the neck as she climbed through broken glass to enter the Capitol. A different officer, Brian Sicknick, died Thursday night from injuries related to the confrontation. A Georgia woman, a Pennsylvania man and an Alabama man also died of “medical emergencies” during the riot.
Capitol Police arrested dozens of participants in the incursion. Forty people were charged in D.C. Superior Court with unlawful entry of public property.
Wassell was one of two people who were arrested last June in connection to the toppling of the McDonough statue. Wassell has been charged with felony theft and is awaiting trial and is seeking the charge
“People's action on June 14, which was a peaceful procession through the French Quarter, to drop a symbol of hate into the Mississippi River as a ritual for healing, was absolutely the will of the people and 200 people acted to make something happen that day,” said Wassell, who is seeking to have the felony charge dropped.
Although protesters focused on the event at the Capitol on Wednesday, speakers denounced capitalism and funding for the military, noting the nearly $800 billion recently granted to the Pentagon. Gemma urged comrades to avoid complacency as Biden enters the White House.
“I always remind people, ‘Remember the escalation of the Vietnam War was under Johnson, the Democrats. Remember that the incarceration of Japanese people was done by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Remember how many wars, invasions, drone bombings took place under the Obama administration,” Gemma said.
Another protester urged his comrades to purchase body armor and make peace with loved ones as the country remains divided.