The Danziger Bridge shooting verdicts handed down early this month represent “closure” to a “dark chapter” “of the NOPD” and in “our city’s history." Or so read the thematically identical statements from Mayor Mitch Landrieu and NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas immediately after.
Now that a federal jury’s convicted five current and former police officers—four who were directly involved and one who aided in the cover-up of the September 4, 2005 shooting, which left two dead and four wounded—we would finally have an “opportunity to turn the page and to heal” as we “look to the future and the continued rebuilding of the NOPD.”
Of course, not everyone is quite so interested in moving on from the tragedy. The African American Leadership Project (AALP), which since 2006 has memorialized Katrina with its “Hands Around the Dome” event—which is what it sounds like, participants march to then grasp hands around the perimeter of the Superdome—will host a sixth anniversary commemoration event at the foot of the Danziger Bridge on Monday at 6:30 p.m. At the event, AALP leaders will announce a campaign to rename the bridge the Madison/Brissette bridge after Ronald Madison and James Brissette, the two men killed in the shooting. (Read about the Danziger's current namesake, Alfred David Danziger.)
“It’s so that we will remember,” says AALP project manager Ernest L. Jones. “We had some discussion and debate as to whether renaming it would unnecessarily open a wound. We said no. We wanted to keep in mind that there were human consequences to the devastation of Katrina as well as all the other consequences.”
The bridge is owned and maintained by the state Department of Transportation and Development, so renaming it would require the State Legislature’s approval. House Rep. Jared Brossett, of District 97 which includes the bridge, says he is weighing whether to sponsor such a bill in the 2012 legislative session.
“I have staff researching what the options are,” Brossett says. “I would like to see those who have fallen be honored. Whether that’s renaming the bridge or putting up a plaque, I’m not sure.”
Jones says he’s invited members of the Madison and Brissette families to speak at the event but as of this writing, he couldn’t confirm who will be there. Landrieu has also been invited to the event. The Gambit contacted the mayor’s office to determine whether Landrieu or someone from his staff would be attending but hasn’t yet received a response.
The NOPD is noticeably omitted from the invite list.
“I don’t want to throw salt onto anybody’s wounds,” Jones says. Nor, he says, does he want the commemoration to devolve into police-bashing
“This is not an anti-police move. It’s a pro-police move,” he says. “We citizens need to strive to get the police department we want and we need.”