Saturday, January 10, 2009

Post-strike update

When we came up with the idea of a "strike against crime" for this year's anniversary of the march to city hall, we really thought an actual strike, with the entire city staying home, would be the only thing that might get the city leaders' attention. Of course, we also knew it would be impossible to pull off. So we began playing with the idea of a strike. People could strike parts of their day. People could wear red wherever they are. Yard signs would mark crime scenes with the message "Crime Happened Here." Activities would be organized all over town to memorialize victims and also to offer examples of the kinds of recreation programs that can keep kids off the street. Etc.

The one thing we were certain of is that we didn't want to bother with city hall. It would be a waste of time. But the news media kept reporting that there would be a rally, so earlier this week, with just a few days to go, we gave in and decided to read the names of the victims in front of city hall following a motorcade to recent crime scenes. And then some of the media coverage reported that few people participated in these activities, as if numbers were essentially the point.

The crowd at city hall was actually significantly larger than it was last year, when we also read names. And it was mostly made up of family of victims, in some cases people who are still waiting for their cases to go forward in any way. Also there: Councilmen Fielkow and Carter, and our new district attorney. Suspiciously absent: Mayor Nagin, the NOPD, Councilmembers Head, Clarkson, Willard-Lewis, Hedge-Morrell and Midura. (Of course, part of our plan in reading the names at city hall last year was actually that we knew Nagin would show his disrespect for the dead once again.)

Predictably, after the bulk of the day's events were done, people began posting online about how disappointing the turnout was. Of course, these same people didn't turn out either. Nor did they offer to plan a better event. But that's how it goes. And it is unfortunate that they can't see the photos we're getting from schools all over the city who asked their students to wear red and had discussions about violence and crime and making the right decisions.

Nor did they see the people who were flagging me down everywhere I went in town, asking for stickers or commenting on the news. Even at my bank, the manager waived to me from her office and the teller said she wished she could wear a strike sticker. So our idea worked after all--because people were thinking about the problem wherever they were during the day, and in many cases, they were joining in the projects that had been planned along the way.

But then, of course, there are people like Curtis Doss, who took the time to write: "All of the names you read of the murdered. You should have also listed the past criminal record of most of them so that we will know how much safer the streets are with them dead. It is not a bad thing when criminals are killed. I am sorry for those who are not in that life but for those who have records, thank you to the shooter. Hope they are next."

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