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Residents take to the streets to show they don’t want City Hall in Armstrong Park

Hundreds showed up in Congo Square for a rally and march to City Hall
Published: Jun. 17, 2021 at 10:36 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 17, 2021 at 11:00 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Hundreds of residents, musicians, culture bearers, and politicians marched from Congo Square to City Hall Thursday evening in order to get the message across. They do not want City Hall in Armstrong Park.

The Save Our Soul Coalition has grown to include over 30 community groups. Now the local NAACP and a handful of elected officials like Councilmember Kristin Palmer and State Representative Royce Duplessis are also voicing their opposition.

“This place is sacred ground, shame on anyone with the thoughts of tampering with this sacred space,” musician Davell Crawford said.

The tone has changed as well. Many feel Mayor Latoya Cantrell has turned her back on the community.

“The fact that the mayor is choosing profit and her legacy over historical preservation is sickening to me,” Crawford said.

Cantrell said the city is wasting money on the current City Hall’s problems right now.

She says this will preserve Congo Square and the culture of the area for years to come.

“This is not a takeover,” Cantrell said Wednesday. “This is breathing life back into a historic building, the Municipal Auditorium to where it will serve a purpose and a need that the city has currently.”

Cantrell brings up the fact that the $38 million in FEMA money that is designated to fix the roof and all utilities in the auditorium will disappear if not used by 2023.

“FEMA, we found out, approved that only to restore the auditorium to its original use, not to convert it into City Hall and they’ve said if the City intends to try and use that money to convert it to City Hall, they have to start a whole new review process,” Leo Watermeier with Friends of Armstrong Park said.

Cantrell says they will first renovate the building with the FEMA funds, then turn to the community to come up with what converting it to city hall would look like.

Although, there’s no compromise for those marching.

“Congo Square is a sacred space for our ancestors and for us and we want to keep it that way period,” Jenna Roots said.

They want the money to be used right now to bring it back as a cultural center like it always has been.

“Black New Orleans culture is important and for too long its been getting short shrift from politicians, particularly in Treme, and I’m tired of the abuse of power the city has put forth over and over on this neighborhood,” Andre Grafe with the Historic Faubourg Treme Association said.

The movement is far from over organizers are urging people to sign the petition that has well over 10,000 signatures. Organizers say they won’t stop until the Mayor backs down.

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