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Gov Edwards, local official oppose opening emergency shelters, but for very different reasons

5 months 3 weeks 3 days ago Tuesday, September 01 2020 Sep 1, 2020 September 01, 2020 6:45 AM September 01, 2020 in News
Source: Associated Press
Governor John Bel Edwards (left), Josh Guillory, Mayor of Lafayette Parish (right)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s governor is dismissing a local official’s opposition to opening emergency shelters for those displaced by Hurricane Laura as largely irrelevant because the state is trying to house evacuees in hotels as opposed to group shelters during the coronavirus pandemic.

A top aide to Lafayette Parish Mayor-President Josh Guillory on Saturday sent an email to local nonprofit groups urging them to “take a pause on any action to establish shelters at this time.” Chief Administrative Officer Cydra Wingerter wrote that officials were worried about a “serious, local security threat” because of recent protests over the killing of Trayford Pellerin.

The 31-year-old Lafayette resident, who was Black, died after a confrontation with police on Aug. 21, when officers fired 10 or more gunshots. The officers had been called to the scene by someone reporting a man with a knife at the gas station. A wave of protests have followed.

“This is a serious threat and we must handle this issue before we can care for our neighbors,” Wingerter wrote in an email Saturday to leadership of the Acadiana Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters. “We are not in a position to safeguard people displaced by Laura with this serious, local security threat. We know that bad actors will take our hospitality and use it against us,” Wingerter wrote in the email, first reported by The Advocate.

Local pastors expressed concern over whether “the threat of outside entities” would present a problem at shelters at their facilities, city-parish spokesperson Jamie Angelle said Sunday, a day after protests were held.

Gov. John Bel Edwards didn’t respond directly Monday, but noted the state is deliberately trying to avoid group shelters to try to prevent COVID-19 transmission.

The governor said the state wasn’t able to shelter Laura evacuees in Lafayette hotels because they were already full. He said evacuees who fled on their own ahead of the storm booked rooms, along with power companies and others trying to find places for their workers to stay as they assist with recovery efforts. “We’re all competing for the same resources,” Edwards said.

As for Guillory, Edwards said: “I”m going to decline to comment on whether I think he’s handling things correctly or not, because quite frankly my plate has been full.”

Lafayette’s elected officials and law enforcement leaders have repeatedly said protests are being influenced by outsiders, but haven’t detailed why they believe that. Public records show those arrested during protests have been from Lafayette and nearby towns.

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