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Report Back on July 27 Direct Action Make the Rich Pay! Stop Jindal’s Attack on Medicaid, Public Housing, Public Schools, & Public Hospitals 

by Mike Howells

 

        Just as Louisiana House Majority Leader, Republican Anthony (Tony) Ligi, was preparing to leave his Kenner legislative office for a Friday night on the town with his wife, members of Occupy NOLA initiated a picket in front of his Metairie home. The protesters demanded that the state legislature stop planned Medicaid and public hospital spending cuts.  A neighbor apparently contacted Ligi to inform him that a multiracial protest was underway on the sidewalk area in front of his suburban home.  Responding to this situation forced Liggi to put the date with his wife on hold.  Instead Ligi returned to his predominately white and Republican neighborhood  to discuss matters with the Occupy NOLA protesters.

      A picket line against Medicaid cuts greeted Representative Ligi upon his return home.  After introducing himself to the picketers  he suggested that it would be better for all parties concerned if we picketed in front of his legislative office.

       Representative Ligi engaged in a vigorous debate about the merits or lack thereof of public education and public health spending cuts with Jay Arena, veteran public housing activist Sharon Jasper, environmental activist Elizabeth Cook, Algiers human rights activist Eloise Williams, and general malcontent Mike Howells.  The Occupiers  emphasized to Ligi their firm opposition to public hospital cuts and Medicaid spending cuts.   

     After about 15 minutes of debate between Ligi and the protesters, police arrived.  The officer said that the sidewalk in front of  the state representative’s home was not an appropriate place for pickets.  Instead, he suggested, that the public space near Mr. Ligi’s legislative office would be a more appropriate place to conduct a picket.  This suggestion did not stop the protesters and Ligi from debating another 20 minutes in front of his home in the middle of  the street. After this discussion participants dispersed without incident.

       The July 27th protest compelled  Representative Ligi to grapple with public opposition to  Medicaid and public hospital funding cuts at a time and place definitely not of his choosing. And 99 percenters, not 1 percenters, set the rules and the agenda for this very public meeting.  The end result is that the Louisiana House Majority leader had to listen and to debate supporters of Medicaid and public hospitals in an environment out of his comfort zone. That’s not austerity politics as usual in Louisiana. And that is a good thing.

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