Krewe of Concerned Citizens

In true New Orleans style.

Another one reverberated, “We are one nation, no mass deportation!”

It felt like a hot summer day when I went to Metairie for a town hall, hosted by Bill Cassidy, U.S. senator of Louisiana. Around the country some elected officials chose to attend town halls during the President’s Day congressional recess, and some chose to ignore their constituents for fear of being screamed at. At least Cassidy didn’t cower at the idea of having angry citizens express their concerns about the new White House Administration and its orange warlord. I’m sure he knew what he was in for, because he strategically chose to have the event in a small venue that fit about 200 people, and it was scheduled to last only one hour. Try fitting policy concerns from hundreds of constituents into one hour, and you will fail.

A friend and I expected to at least make it to the back of the venue. But by the time I arrived at the library, I saw crowds of people walking from the entrance  towards the parking lot.“They closed the doors. We’re going to see if he’ll come out from the back,” they told us.

Some people had been there since noon, hours before the start to get a spot inside. I assumed it would take place in a large auditorium, and most of us would be able to get in. Over by the entrance, there were hundreds of people holding up signs. One read, “Keep the EPA. No Pipeline.” Another, “Investigate Trump ties with Russia,” and “Healthcare is a human right.”

Over by the entrance, people standing wishing they could have a chance to ask Cassidy some questions.

The best signs were close to the barricades that security guards had set up near the entrance. There was a small group of people using a microphone. One lady was recounting her experience with Affordable Care Act and how it allowed her to get coverage for her illness. There was also a guy that talked about listening to who have different ideologies. “Don’t let them tell you should hate them. They voted for someone else but that doesn’t mean you have to ignore them…,” his voice trailed off as I kept walking.

I thought about the sentiment of putting yourself in another person’s shoes, and listening to their point of view before relying on severe judgment and ridicule. If anything has come out of this election, it’s that we shouldn’t be afraid to talk to people outside our circle. Fear doesn’t allow for the exchange of ideas; it only further divides us.


We ventured to the parking lot where people were waiting for Cassidy to come out. The number of people on this side was also significant and kept increasing as the hour approached when Cassidy would exit. A couple of people were following the meeting through live feeds. From the videos, it sounded like there was plenty of yelling. Someone said Cassidy had a power point presentation for the audience on how the senate and congress function. People were also told to leave their signs outsides— nothing bigger than 8×11 could be brought in. “He had everyone write their questions on an index card, and now he’s only talking about health care,” one lady said. “But he’s also answering other stuff now,” but this was only after people started demanding it. Cassidy had everyone write their questions in an index card, and read them as he saw fit. It would have been better to have people line up to ask their questions.

One guy outside got a little rowdy when the security officer told him not to pass further into the driveway. There were signs that recalled Cassidy being paid off by Betsy Betsy Devos, who donated $70,000 to his campaign. Many called him to oppose her confirmation vote, and expressed frustration on his Facebook account. “Oh that’s not necessary, were fine just standing here,” said a lady behind the guy who was yelling about Cassidy’s record.

We sat down for a while and my friend asked if I thought aggression was sometimes necessary? It’s a double edge sword. Even when protestors are marching peaceful—take the case of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation— they are painted by the mainstream media as criminals, instigators and rioters who are acting violent, which could not be further from the truth. There’s a danger that while our intentions may be noble, there are individuals that use this opportunity to rage, loot and set things on fire, but by in large most protests are peaceful except for minor rioters who in no way represent the whole message. That’s also not to say you shouldn’t express your anger over real issues, but there are definitely strategic ways, and yelling a few facts into the air and chanting vigorously is not criminal. Sometimes the only way to get heard is to be in the face of powerful people, who refuse to hear facts and rational arguments. I keep asking: Is our anger not justified? At what point does it become justified?

I talked to one lady, who had come down to protest because she was worried about the Devos confirmation, ACA and the investigation on cheetolini’s campaign connection to Russia. Some medical students who wore white lab coats were hoping to ask questions about ACA. They were worried about coverage and preconditions. They told me that one of their friends luckily made it inside the venue.

The crowd kept chanting while the town hall took place inside.
The crowd kept chanting while the town hall took place inside.

Chants from the crowds rose: “Refugees are welcome here.” “Say it loud, say it clear.” Another one reverberated, “We are one nation, no mass deportation!”

Someone standing near us asked, “Where are they being sent?” It was reported that immigrants are being sent to Mexico, regardless of the fact that they are not from there. I remember reading an article about the backlog of detainees stemming from the Obama Administration, and with the new ICE raids it will only exasperate the problem, since immigrants without criminal backgrounds are not being exempt.

There was no sign of Cassidy yet, and it was well after the end of the event. Some suspected he left through a different door, but a lady, assured us that, “No, that’s his car, parked right over there.” On the live feed, Cassidy was taped leaving the town hall abruptly to the shout of audience members who complained that he had arrived late and left quickly.

For those who want to discredit the resistance, none of the people rallying against this administration are paid protesters.

The sun was drying us out, so we decided to leave. My friend said she wanted to ask him about the Bayou Pipeline. “Maybe he’ll answer your question as he’s leaving,” someone said, to which I laughed imagining the two seconds the question would get, and sadly it was a low-level priority for his administration, because a healthy clean, environment isn’t that important.

Driving away from the library, and watching as some protesters stayed behind, chanting and waiting. I thought about the guy on the microphone, saying to talk to people who have different ideologies and not to simply ignore them. I thought about whether these types of rallies were effective, and my friend pointed out that it allows people to learn and become politically aware. It also means that Cassidy could witness the opposition in numbers. This was not a random occurrence, not some little fuss, but a serious concern with how this administration is being run.


Where are we on climate action?

The topic of climate change didn’t make the cut during the presidential debates, despite the recent news regarding the Great Barrier Reef’s continued demise (50% of it is already dead or dying). But that’s not the only story that affirms our belief that climate change was unjustly ignored this election. Recent developments beg our attention towards climate action even more.

Remember way back when, Sanders was the only candidate to vehemently discuss climate change during initial debates. Now the presidential debate moderators are more concerned with topics such as dumpy’s offensive remarks and Hill’s emails than addressing the topic of global warming or science-related issues that puts the public’s health in jeopardy. Some republican officials continue to avoid using the words climate change, or they simply say it’s a hoax. Seeing how funds from the fossil fuel industry have been funneled into campaign donations on both sides of the aisle is hardly a surprise. It’s estimated that $29.6m in campaign contributions came from fossil fuel companies in the 2016 election cycle, according to

Several weeks ago I was listening to the radio as Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, spoke about his upcoming plans for Louisiana. One caller addressed climate change, and asked, how the governor plans to alter the course of human impact on climate, but the caller was interrupted by the host and not allowed to finish her question. Edwards avoided answering and instead, said I’m not ready to say climate change is caused by humans, as if saying it’s still up for debate, without even mentioning the possibility of alternative energy.

With numerous protests against offshore drilling, it’s shocking that the Governor doesn’t have a lengthier grasp. For years numerous communities in Louisiana have been devastated by oil drilling and chemical factories. One example among many, is Mossville, a small African-American community near Lake Charles damaged by nearby polyvinyl chloride factories for years to the point of making the area uninhabitable to live. Most recently in August, Plaquemines Parish was hit with an oil spill , adding to a long list of parishes who have filed lawsuits against the oil and gas companies, damaging Louisiana’s coast.

In past years the consensus was to accept climate change as a real issues or at least that science-based facts could improve our daily lives, and surprisingly it included some republicans who recognized that these problems were real. This video shows how far republicans have ventured to deny global warming over the years.


Protect our climate, water, & health.

The water protectors 

For several months now, the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation has tried to stop the Dakota Access oil pipeline from being built along their reservation borders. They seek to protect the Missouri River from pipeline eruptions, which is all too common with these pipelines (Alabama’s recent pipeline eruption). It’s a movement that has shown resiliency when confronted with militarized law enforcement, but it’s also a historical moment that has brought together Native American tribes to defend their rights, as the New Yorker explains. Native Americans have always had to defend themselves from the intrusion of industry on their lands. Social media has allowed the movement to spread out more effectively than before, reaching many environmental groups and allies who are traveling and protesting alongside, or donating to the cause from home. Obviously this makes local authorities nervous, since they are siding with the Dakota Access oil pipeline owners. For months peaceful marches were held in Standing Rock’s encampment with prayers and singing to bring attention to their plight. Their peaceful acts have been meant with vicious dogs, military tanks, guns and unjust imprisonment. Nothing warrants these abuses on peaceful marchers or any group asking for what is owed to them after years of being colonized and oppressed.


Presidential candidates on science

During the presidential debates these last weeks, you hardly heard a word on topics related to science. If it wasn’t controversial or involved a scandal, it wasn’t covered. Our candidates on the local or national level don’t pay enough attention to the issues that affect daily life; issues that are integral to our health and well-being, instead they are discussing repealing the Affordable Care act, Roe vs. Wade, hill’s email scandal or dumpy’s sexual assaults. Scientific American graded the presidential candidates based on their understanding of science, and how it can influence policy. They answered questions on climate, technology, agriculture, mental heath, education, among others. One central theme: how science would inform their administration to protect Americans who are vulnerable to public health and environmental threats? Not enough is being done to protect the public. For example in Flint, Michigan, officials switched the water source in April 2014 to the Flint River, with little oversight on quality, which led to residents drinking lead-contaminated water. The local government failed to quickly resolve the issue after residents expressed their concerns about the water’s discoloration, and only took the matter seriously a year later. It’s estimated between 6,000 to 12,000 children were exposed to high levels of lead.

Climate Change and migration

It’s no surprise that climate change plays a role in the Mexico–US borderlands. Recently we have witnessed record high temperatures, causing farmers to abandon their farms; many have been displaced by earthquakes, landslides and crop failures. To make matter worse rampant militarization and unregulated enforcement has made conditions for migrants more deadly.  No More Deaths, a humanitarian organization in south Arizona, interviewed Todd Miller, a writer on the topic, to discuss the link between climate change and migration. Hurricanes, floods and drought are impacting Central American Countries and the Caribbean. Some are also being impacted by violence and unjust economic policies.  At the moment the U.S. only has a plan to deter unwanted immigrants from entering the country, but has no plans to give asylum to those displaced by climate change, and the issue only seems to worsen with this year’s political rhetoric about deporting immigrants in masses and decreasing refugees.

Environmentalist try to lease lands

What happens when an environmentalist tries to lease public land? As Mother Jones reported, they get turned down by the Bureau of Land Management, which is in charge of leasing land for the purpose of extracting oil. This action was part of the Keep it in the ground movement that wants to stop fossil fuel leases, which allows companies to extract with little oversight on environmental factors, and no regard for global warming. Though the application included all the legal requirements, it was turned down since the applicants made it clear no extraction plans would take place. Oil and gas companies buy leases on speculation; they don’t drill right away and also wait until the market is in their favor. At the moment there are “20 million acres of public land under lease that isn’t being developed for oil and gas.” But you don’t see BLM taking away this land from its renters. There is a clear bias BLM has for the industry, and it’s scary, knowing these public lands are being leased to the fossil fuel industry, and even if not all are used for extraction, they still remain in their hands.