New Orleans ACORN Demands 'Memorials not Demolitions

After weeks of attending New Orleans City Council meetings, receiving praise but seeing no action, New Orleans ACORN members decided to make today’s City Council meeting a little different. New Orleans ACORN members relinquished their usual place in the audience and picketed in front of City Hall, handing out leaflets and gathering signatures for a petition that calls the city “immoral and unethical” for trying to demolish residents’ houses on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

“We are very upset that the City is trying to take homes away from us on the anniversary of Katrina,” says ACORN member Vanessa Johnson. “The City didn’t do anything with blighted property before the storm and we don’t believe they will do anything now. They want to sell these homes to outside developers and we have to stop this. The people have a right to decide what to do with their own property.”

After picketing, ACORN member Gwen Adams from the Lower 9th Ward organized the group to go inside the City Council chambers and disrupt the meeting. Unexpectedly, the group ran into Mayor Ray Nagin in the hall and immediately surrounded him, demanding explanations. “Where’s the leadership brother?” one ACORN member shouted. The members then held an impromptu press conference discussing their demands. As they chanted “memorials not demolitions” and “no justice, no peace” they walked into the chambers and flyered the audience, bringing proceedings to a halt.

ACORN members have been asking the city council to pass the following amendments to the ordinance:

  1. Written notification of details and conditions of compliance to be sent to the homeowner by certified mail.
  2. A list of organizations, businesses etc. who offer gutting services should accompany the notification.
  3. Should the property be seized, residents in the area should be given first consideration to purchase the property.

ACORN has a waiting list of 1,000 homes for their free gutting list, and other non-profits have equally long lists. The city has yet to explain how residents prove that they’re on one of these lists, and ACORN members are concerned that the ordinance will allow the City to give over large tracks of land to developers. ACORN has already won an agreement for the Lower 9th Ward to be protected.

Members plan to continue to hold pickets and protests at city hall, gather signatures, and place “ACORN protected” signs on residents’ homes who want to make sure their property is not seized. Any displaced New Orleans residents who want to save their homes are being asking to call ACORN at 1-800-239-7379 to get their home on the “ACORN protected” list.