Posted: Aug 29, 2011 5:40 PM
Updated: Aug 29, 2011 5:40 PM
Source: Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS - The African American Leadership Project wants the Danziger Bridge renamed for the two men killed there by New Orleans police days after Hurricane Katrina.
Ronald Madison and James Brissette were killed on the bridge. The community activist group planned a meeting and ceremony to announce the proposal at the foot of the bridge later Monday, the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
Member Walter Umrani said the group has strong community support for the effort and will soon contact the City Council and state Legislature about the proposed change.
Five current or former police officers were convicted of civil rights violations in the killings of Madison and Brissette, and the wounding of four other civilians who were walking on the bridge less than a week after the Aug. 29, 2005, storm. The jury agreed that the officers shot the six people without provocation, and then embarked on a cover-up that involved fictitious witnesses, falsified reports and a planted gun.
Sgts. Kenneth Bowen and Robert Gisevius, Officer Anthony Villavaso, former Officer Robert Faulcon and retired Sgt. Arthur Kaufman have since appealed those convictions.
"We don't mean this to show we are against the NOPD," Umrani said. "It is to be an important reminder for everyone of what happened and the improvement of the justice system in New Orleans since then."
Renaming the bridge would require an act by the Louisiana Legislature. State Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, who represents part of eastern New Orleans, said if it came to a vote in the House he would support it.
"I am definitely in support of something that honors all those people shot on that bridge," Badon said Monday. "I support the move, but it doesn't go far enough. I know we can't name the bridge after all of them, but we could erect a memorial at the foot of the bridge for all of them."
Although he found support for the proposed change, Umrani said among the poor and disenfranchised there was doubt that the government would go along with it.
"That shows the lack of confidence that segment of society has about government doing anything they want or need," he said.
The bridge was named in 1934 for Alfred David Danziger, an assistant state attorney general and a friend of then- New Orleans Mayor Robert Maestri and Gov. Huey P. Long.