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Protestors want quicker Hard Rock demolition, more construction oversight

Since the Hard Rock hotel collapsed Oct. 12, there's been a lot of talk and little visible action.

NEW ORLEANS — Friday afternoon on North Rampart Street, New Orleans heard the voices of the frustrated and the fed up.

A protest regarding the city's treatment of the Hard Rock Hotel collapse marched through the streets to City Hall.

"Something should have been done about this months ago," said Haley Cochran, dressed as a clown. "It's disgraceful. We look like clowns on a national level."

Ben Gordon, marching with the group, said, "It's all about cutting corners, saving costs, and they try to push something too fast, and you end up with a catastrophe."

Since the Hard Rock hotel collapsed Oct. 12, there's been a lot of talk and little visible action.

Two bodies are still trapped under tons of concrete. And as lawsuits pile up against the developer, its owners have yet to formally address the public.

"It doesn't seem like anybody's doing anything about it. It just keeps going around in circles," said Marcus Frasier, who owns a business in the French Quarter. "I feel like this is just one step to make it a better city. And this is the worst black mark on the City that you can possibly have, to have this building collapse in the middle of basically the French quarter."

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People marched for better communication from the city, accountability for the collapse, a faster demolition, improved worker safety, and justice for the victims.

"(I march) to support the victims, especially the man that was deported and the people who have lost their lives," said Ashley Moonwalker.

As the protestors neared City Hall, they holed city leaders were listening. City Council Vice President Jason Williams, who has called for a city-run investigation, separate from the federal investigation, stood with the group and took the megaphone.

He said he has serious concerns about the worker, Delmer Joel Ramirez Palma, who was deported to Guatemala after he blew the whistle on dangerous working conditions in the Hard Rock.

"I have a serious problem with that because it sends a message to other witnesses — who could potentially be whistleblowers to tell us what happened there — to remain silent," said Williams.

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Steven Pasnewski, a representative from Sheet Metal Worker's Union Local 214, has been pushing for a Responsible Bidder's Ordinance. He believes the frustration building around the Hard Rock disaster could bring real change.

"It does seem like the attention has finally gathered back up from where it was at the very beginning. At the very beginning, people were very motivated and you know going about it and really 'rah, rah, rah,' and it kind of died," said Pasnewski. "Now it's nice to see the activism again. Hopefully, we can take advantage of this opportunity and get some real laws passed, get some real teeth, gets some real legislation, and prevent tragedies like that happening again."

Mayor Latoya Cantrell responded to the protest, writing in a statement:

"We appreciate and we share the frustration our neighbors and fellow residents are feeling, and the Cantrell administration is doing everything within our power to ensure the disaster is dealt with appropriately. We are taking every step to ensure that those responsible are held fully accountable. The legal and structural challenges associated with the collapse make this a long and complicated process, but we are committed to due diligence, full transparency and absolute accountability."

A town hall is planned next week to discuss the proposed Responsible Bidder Ordinance, which could set new standards for responsible contracting in the city.

It's set to be held Monday, February 10th at 5:30 p.m., at the Corpus Christi Community Resource Center on Bernard Avenue.

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