Energetic demands rang throughout the streets of New Orleans on Monday morning as a diverse group of residents were joined by out of town volunteers to protest attempted gentrification of the city, in the spirit of Martin Luther King Day. About 150 people participated in today's MLK Day march, which unlike the "official"parade route planned out by Mayor Ray Nagin, included the upper and lower sections of the Ninth Ward.

Monday's three hour march commenced on the corner of Caffin and North Claiborne Avenues in the lower Ninth ward at approximately 9:00 AM, where residents and volunteers were welcomed by speakers from local and national organizations. As the group proceeded up the bridge and into the upper Ninth ward, organizers announced that normally the streets were lined up with a lot more people, and with families picnicking and enjoying themselves on the streets.

“Next year we'll still be here,” one man said over the megaphone. Small groups of children and families stood on the sidelines while others marched by, singing “We Shall Overcome” and chanting protest slogans for housing rights. The march was essentially a celebration of civil rights and a protest of the city's attempt to gentrify the area.

According to a press release, New Orleans contained 8,330 public housing units before Katrina. Although thousands of these Ninth ward units can be restored and are habitable, they remain closed because of a corporate-influenced city wide plan brought on by Nagin and other local authorities to keep residents out and “redevelop,” or gentrify, the area.

Under the direction of Department of Urban Planning Chair Joe Canizaro, the Bring New Orleans Back Commission is proposing a multi-billion dollar “Returning Neighborhood Plan” in order to rebuild the city. This plan, proposed at a meeting on Wednesday, January 11, continues to ignore the actual needs of still devastated communities. Meanwhile, residents are fed up and say they do not need the city's help--they can rebuild the city themselves.
(Read more about the Jan. 11 meeting here and here; go here for video ).

One woman from the Iberville area said the city and its urban developers are completely ignoring people's basic needs, even though “they know what we've been through,” she said, adding that her community is still struggling on a daily basis.

Making rest stops at points of interest such as a public housing unit on Rampart Street, and a destitute Woolworth's on Canal Street where people fought against segregation in 1961, the march concluded at approximately 1:00 PM on Decatur Street, next to the French Quarter.