James Varney, Times-Picayune (New Orleans), Apr. 28
For much of a public hearing Wednesday night on discrimination in New Orleans, the city’s police force was a whipping boy.
Several speakers said the force has failed to discipline its own, and that black residents are too often stereotyped as criminals by police officers who harass them. For most of the meeting, New Orleans Police Superintendent Eddie Compass sat stone-faced, but when Salaam Jihad took the microphone, his remarks proved too much for the chief.
Clad in camouflage fatigues and a T-shirt showcasing iconic Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara, Jihad said he had been the victim of police brutality in 1997, and he claimed Police Department brass failed to investigate the incident seriously. If he found himself in the same situation again, Jihad said he would “march into the 2nd District with a gun and open fire on everyone I see. I’ll die like a man.”
When a few crowd members murmured their approval, a disgusted Compass grabbed a microphone on the table in front of him. “I’m going to say something here,” he said, his face twisted with disgust. “This guy is talking about killing police officers and you are applauding him.”
“You kill people, too!” shouted a handful in the audience.
Compass and his top lieutenants showed little emotion when taunted directly by speakers, who were each allotted three minutes but sometimes spilled over their given time. As he got up to leave the meeting in Dillard’s Lawless Chapel, Compass grimaced when asked if he thought the meeting was worthwhile. Outside, he confronted Jihad again and told him he was “delusional.”
Jihad insisted he was neither advocating violence in general nor encouraging African-Americans to take up arms against the NOPD. He said his remarks were strictly personal, and that Compass had misinterpreted them.