Complete with a folk singer and feminist icon, protestors called for a recall of Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro while urning people to stay active in the fight to reform New Orleans’ criminal justice system.
Ani DiFranco, New Orleans resident and folk star and feminist icon, led several dozen protestors in song Tuesday afternoon on the front steps of the Orleans Criminal District courthouse. Rally-goers focused on Cannizzaro’s use of “fake subpoenas” and material witness warrants, which have lately caused controversy that ran all the way to City Council.
DiFranco performed two songs for the crowd, blasting the DA’s office for their tactics.
“I think when you hear the words ‘tough on crime’ and ‘war on drugs,’ that’s racists crime talk,” DiFranco said.
The rally was led by Our Revolution NOLA, a political organization that started by supporting Bernie Sander’s bid for the presidency and “fights for democracy, equality and the 99 percent.” About a dozen people took to the microphone, ranging from crime victims to those who said they’ been falsely accused of crimes.
Most speakers led chants calling for Cannizzaro’s resignation or encouraged those gathered to help recall the DA. The protest follows a report by The Lens that shows Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office has been using “fake subpoenas” to pressure witnesses into meeting with agency prosecutors and investigators.
Michelle Hanks, co-founder of Our Revolution NOLA, encouraged the crowd to sign a MoveOn.org petition to investigate Cannizzaro and Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick, Jr. Hanks, along with most other speakers, said she was also protesting a general lack of transparency in the DA’s office and tactics used to intimidate witnesses.
“We are not going o tolerate this injustice any longer,” said Belinda Parker Brown, CEO of Louisiana United International. LUI provides support and opportunities to civil rights groups across the state in an effort to transform criminal justice.
“Some people have been mercilessly prosecuted by Cannizzaro’s office, but he’s the one who needs to be prosecuted,” Brown said.
Some speakers accused Cannizzaro of using taxpayer money to jail victims of crime while intimidating skittish witnesses in order to prosecute more people. Rev. Marie Galatas, state coordinator of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, encouraged those gathered to keep pressing city officials for an investigation of Cannizzaro and his office.
Galatis, who repeatedly called for the DA’s jailing, also said this kind of work must continues for years in order to change any part of the criminal justice system.
“Don’t become passive, don’t give up,” she said. “I’m not giving up.”