U.S. District Court Judge Lance Africk put an end to the Occupy New Orleans encampment at Duncan Plaza last week when he denied the protesters' request for an injunction that would have indefinitely barred the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) from evicting them. Early the next morning, after protesters had received two written warnings that remaining in the park past 10:30 p.m. was illegal, NOPD Cmdr. J. D. Thomas led cops into Duncan Plaza.
Of the hundreds who had occupied the park before Dec. 6, when the city evicted the encampment the first time, only two remained and refused to move.
Officers handcuffed Mike Raso and David James D'Antonio, escorted them out of the park and cited them for minor violations of city ordinances against building structures in public spaces and remaining in the park after hours. Raso was issued a summons and released. D'Antonio, who does not have a residence in New Orleans and therefore could not be released, was taken into custody.
Mayoral spokesman Ryan Berni later said D'Antonio never was booked into Orleans Parish Prison. Instead, police took him to a hospital to be treated for a pre-existing injury on his hand, Berni said.
City officials estimate 150 people were living in the park during the first eviction. Many were homeless and had moved there after the city in late October shut down a similar, albeit nonpolitical, encampment under the Interstate 10 overpass on Calliope Street. Donald Wilkerson, director of homeless services provider Exodus House, says his staff was able to find temporary shelter for 35 of the 43 homeless campers the city transported to the facility on Dec. 5 and Dec. 6.
Protesters eager to maintain the Occupy New Orleans movement have scattered to various sites throughout the city, including a vacant lot near the William J. Guste housing development in Central City. — Charles Maldonado