The battle over the future of Charity Hospital has just taken an exciting new turn. On Monday, August 31, more than a thousand people marched through the streets of New Orleans, in one of the largest demonstrations the city has seen has seen in recent years. The massive crowd represented every neighborhood of the city, rich and poor, Black and white, small toddlers joining with elderly retirees. While coming from many different backgrounds and political perspectives, and wearing everything from shorts and t-shirts to brightly-colored suits and costumes, everyone spoke with one voice on this issue – Charity should be rebuilt within its former building.
Dancing through the streets with The Hot 8 and Rebirth Brass Bands, people from across the city held mass-printed signs saying Save Charity Hospital, as well as individually-written messages, like “I’m a Charity Hospital Baby” and “Save Lower Midcity.”
The giant secondline, which stretched several blocks, brought out many people who have never been to a protest, as well as membership from the more than 77 organizations that have endorsed the central demands of this movement: First, that an independent analysis of the two competing hospital plans be ordered by the governor. Second, that the City Planning Commission and City Council hold the legally required public hearings on the decision to cede Lower Mid-City for expropriation. Finally, the coalition wants the costs and benefits of each competing hospital proposal to be evaluated within the confines of the Goody Clancy Master Plan process.
This mass of people added to the evidence that public opinion is completely against LSU’s plan to relocate Charity Hospital to a new location, tearing down a large swath on Midcity in the process. A new opinion poll verifies what the demonstration implied. The survey, by pollster Ed Renwick, shows that, by a solid two-to-one ratio, New Orleans residents support rebuilding within the historic edifice. Like the march, the poll results crossed lines of race, gender, age and education.
Local politicians should take special note of the poll: more than 80% of respondents thought that public hearings held by city council would be a good idea, and - by a four-to-one margin - people said they would support Mayoral and City Council candidates who support rebuilding Charity in its original structure.
At the end of the march, people cheered as speakers promised further action. Among the many public figures present was Reverend Avery Alexander’s granddaughter and a doctor who’s father built the sculpture over Charity’s door. However, state and local politicians stayed away, further demonstrating official short-sightedness.
Musician Glen David Andrews, who spoke and performed at the end of the march, summed up many people’s thoughts when he said, “They want us to say goodbye to Charity Hospital. We ought to be saying goodbye to Bobby Jindal. We ought to be saying goodbye to Ray Nagin and the whole City Council.”