Clancy DuBos / Eyewitness News Political Analyst
NEW ORLEANS -- Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s move to evict the Occupy Nola protestors from Duncan Plaza today looks like a classic case of jumping the gun.
The mayor ordered cops to sweep the plaza early this morning, and they did. But that was before a federal had a chance to hear arguments from Occupy Nola lawyers, who went to court yesterday seeking to block the eviction.
This afternoon, after the peaceful eviction, federal Judge Jay Zainey granted a 7-day temporary restraining order, which means the protesters can now go back to Duncan Plaza.
The judge made it clear that he has not decided the merits of the whole case. Instead, he said, he simply wants to maintain the status quo until a full hearing later on. At that point, the city and the protesters can present their cases for and against the eviction action.
Landrieu and NOPD deserve credit for taking steps to assist several dozen homeless people who had camped out at the Occupy site. At the same time, the mayor may have hurt the city’s cause by moving forward with the eviction after it was clear to everyone that the matter was now in federal court. Judges, especially federal judges, don’t look kindly on litigants who fail to show deference to a court’s authority.
Ultimately, this is a First Amendment question involving the rights of free speech and freedom of assembly. The last thing the mayor needs is to run the risk of clouding those issues.