But Thursday’s vote crossed racial lines, with the three black council members joining four white colleagues to permit the US government to tear down four public housing developments in favour of new, mixed-income housing.
|Four public housing developments are to be torn
down in favour of mixed-income housing [AFP]
The vote followed hours of debate and clashes in the street outside. Police used chemical spray and stun guns when dozens of protesters tried to force their way into the packed City Council chamber.
One woman was taken away on a stretcher after she was sprayed and dragged from the gates.
Another woman said she was stunned by officers, and still had what appeared to be a stun gun wire hanging from her shirt.
“Is this what democracy looks like?” Bill Quigley, a Loyola University law professor who opposes demolition, said as he held a strand of stun gun wire he said had been shot into another of the protesters.
Quigley said he believed the crackdown violated public meetings laws.
Protesters said the Housing Authority of New Orleans had disproportionately allowed supporters of the demolition to pack the council chambers.
|Social workers say the number of homeless
people in the area has doubled to 12,000 [AFP]
At the peak of the confrontation, some 70 protesters were facing about a dozen mounted police and 40 other officers on foot.
Some public housing residents said during the daylong debate that they welcomed the plan by the US department of housing and urban development to replace the decades-old structures with mixed-income housing.
The department says about 3,000 families who once lived in New Orleans public housing remain scattered across the country and social workers say the number of homeless people in the area has doubled to about 12,000.
Thursday’s vote was required before demolition work could begin, but several legal challenges to the plan have not been resolved.
Endesha Juakali, a protest leader arrested on a charge of disturbing the peace, said Thursday’s confrontation with the council was not the last breath from protesters.
“For everything they do, we have to make them pay a political consequence,” Juakali said.
He vowed that when the bulldozers try to demolish the St Bernard complex “it’s going to be an all out effort”.