NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) – New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Michael Harrison said uniform and plainclothes officers will be on patrol tonight to respond to protesters.
Speaking after a promotion ceremony for NOPD officers, Harrison said he has spoken to Mayor Mitch Landrieu at length about last night’s protests.
“We want to make a statement and send a message to people who want to protest,” Harrison said. “Certainly, the New Orleans Police Department will always make sure we give you the space and the place to demonstrate and protest, as is your right.”
More than 400 protesters angry about the election of President Elect Donald Trump took to the streets last night in a roving mob that shattered windows and defaced the Robert E. Lee statue in Lee Circle.
The vandalism took place during what Harrison described as an “impromptu rally,” that took police an hour to respond to. Promising no lag time tonight, Harrison said the NOPD is fully prepared for any protests.
“We will not allow anyone to commit crimes, to commit the act of vandalism,” Harrison said. “We want to send a strong, unified message to everyone that you can protest and we will allow you to do that, but we will not tolerate anyone vandalizing anyone’s property, however you may feel about it.”
Promising arrests and prosecutions for anyone who breaks the law during the protests, Harrison said his number one goal is identifying, arresting, and prosecuting vandals.
The NOPD will be out in force tonight to prevent further destruction of property, but Harrison added that protesters may not always see the officers coming.
“There will be people out there who are police who you probably will not recognize,” Harrison said. “We will take strong action when we see people attempting to commit vandalism or any other criminal acts out there. This is not what protests and demonstrations are about. They are about you having a voice, it is not about committing criminal activity.”
In an earlier statement, Landrieu spoke about the need to respect the democratic process right now.
“One of the hallmarks of American democracy is the peaceful transition of power,” Landrieu wrote in the statement. “We don’t resort to violence and destruction when we don’t get our way in this country. We must move forward together. Those who wish to protest have a right to do so peacefully, however, lawlessness and destruction of property will not be tolerated in the City of New Orleans. I have instructed Chief Harrison and the NOPD to continue to maintain order on our streets and arrest anyone who damages property. I am confident that the people of New Orleans will demonstrate for the rest of the country how to exercise free speech in an appropriate manner.”
Watch a Harrison’s complete statement below: