On June 5 of 2020, a few friends and I attended a Black Lives Matter rally right outside of Jackson Square, in the heart of New Orleans’ French Quarter. We were fortunate to rendezvous with some of my former students. At the rally, protesters silently sat along the Mississippi River to reflect on the recent killings of Black Americans at the hands of police. After reflection, many of us returned to Jackson Square, named after Andrew Jackson, and joined the calls to remove the iconic Andrew Jackson statue overlooking the square.
There we faced a small group of armed counterprotesters, around five or so, wearing bulletproof vests and ready to “defend” the statue. The protesters and counterprotesters angrily exchanged words, which seemed to eerily satisfy the counterprotesters. One of my former students, Leandre Shaw, decided to approach a counterprotester to engage in dialogue. During the conversation, the counterprotester told us he wanted to protect the statues and asked why we were so concerned with them. Aronisha Mickel, another former student, said she’s not just concerned with them; rather, she wants to create a better world for her future children to be safe. Her response caused him to pause.