By: Pat Austin
SHREVEPORT – As Louisiana politicians go, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell is on her way to being as infamous as any of them.
Cantrell has come under criticism for her harsh economic restrictions in response to Covid-19 in New Orleans compared to the rest of the state. She has placed stringent restrictions on high school athletic events which likely contributed to the Louisiana High School Football Playoffs relocating their games from the Superdome in New Orleans to Natchitoches, Louisiana at Northwestern State University. Her tough occupancy restrictions for the Superdome would not enable many fans in the stadium; conditions are more favorable in Natchitoches; this move will cost New Orleans a chunk of tourism dollars from the multiday event.
In her latest move, Cantrell has verbally attached Christian singer and Louisiana native Lauren Daigle for spontaneously singing at a French Quarter protest last month.
The rally was a pop-up Let Us Worship rally staged by Californian Sean Feucht who has been doing this all across the country to protest Covid restrictions on churches and worship services. Daigle, who lives near the French Quarter, was reportedly riding her bike in the area, stopped, and when she was recognized and asked to sing, she complied. Naturally, it hit social media as a clip was posted by Feucht, and the firestorm began.
The protest “flouted coronavirus restrictions.” Participants were “not wearing masks.” There “were thousands of people there.” There were “hundreds of people there.” Daigle “endangered first responders.” Criticism rained down.
Mayor Cantrell lashed out at Daigle in a December 9 letter which she wrote to Dick Clark Productions – the organization organizing the New Year’s Rockin’ Eve event which was to spotlight New Orleans in an eight-minute segment of the broadcast.
Cantrell asked that Daigle not be involved with the broadcast because of her participating in the protest at the French Quarter. Cantrell wrote,
“Miss Daigle cannot and should not be rewarded with national media exposure and a public spotlight. She harmed our people, she risked the lives of our residents, and she strained our first responders in a way that was unconscionable – in the midst of a public health crisis. That is not who we are, and she cannot be allowed to represent New Orleans or the people she willfully endangered.”
Daigle responded to the kerfuffle last week with a statement which said, in part:
“I’m disappointed that my spontaneous participation has become part of the political discourse and I’m saddened by the divisive agendas of these times. I would have been, and still would be, honored to represent our city on New Year’s Eve and although I was aware of discussions regarding my involvement, an offer was never made. I have wept, pleading for this chaos to dissipate and for harmony to return. We need unity when people are desperate, suffering, starving or out of work.”
Mayor Cantrell’s attack on Daigle has been criticized by Louisiana Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser who oversees tourism for the state. His office has pulled their financial subsidy for the city’s participation in the NYE event. In response, the city of New Orleans will pony up the $500,000 from their own “cultural fund.” This move has drawn criticism from some city council members who would rather spend the money locally in support of local artists, but the mayor contends that the national exposure is more important.
It’s all a huge mess, and really quite unnecessary.
Cantrell’s rush to criticize Daigle seems misplaced. Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry sent a letter of support to Daigle should she and Dick Clark Productions choose to “relocate the event” to “more hospitable areas of the state.” He reminded her that Cantrell has previously allowed protests in the city, including a Black Lives Matter protest this summer. And the Naught Nawlins swinger convention was allowed to go ahead, which incidentally resulted in a Covid outbreak.
In light of that, Cantrell’s criticism seems rather harsh, and it does seem that she could be costing her city some tourism dollars in times when they are most needed.
I’ve never listened to Lauren Daigle’s music very much, but I think I’m going to give her a listen. And I will not be watching New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.
Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.