The civil rights movement is alive and well in New Orleans. On April 1st, thousands of people marched across the Crescent City Connection Bridge to support the right of displaced New Orleans citizens to vote in the election scheduled April 22. In a symbolic action that mirrored the 1965 march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama that generated a nationwide groundswell of support for the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act, the “March for Our Right to Return, Vote and Rebuild” in New Orleans was designed to ensure that the displaced residents of New Orleans are not disenfranchised and that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is protected.
Marchers also supported the right to return home for those scattered in 44 states across the nation, as well as a priority to be given to “Katrina survivors” when jobs, contracts and training opportunities are dispensed along the Gulf Coast.
The main reason for the protest, led by Rev. Jess Jackson and others, is the city’s upcoming April 22nd election, which currently excludes two-thirds of the voters who formerly lived in New Orleans. The election has been pre-cleared by state officials and the U.S. Department of Justice, even though voters do not know who is running for office and those seeking office do not know how to communicate with the voters. Organizers of the April 1st event want the Secretary of State and Attorney General’s office to provide the public and candidates an updated voter list, including the FEMA list of Katrina survivors scattered across the nation. Not to do so, they contend, would amount to a “public election with secret voter rolls,” which is a clear a violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.