Why won’t Lafayette, which was spared from the worst of Hurricane Laura, open an emergency shelter for neighboring communities? According to Lafayette Parish Mayor-President Josh Guillory’s administration, protests related to a local police shooting of a Black man may pose a “serious, local security threat.”
This announcement comes just days after the killing of Trayford Pellerin, 31, by Lafayette police officers.
Six police officers arrived at a Circle K gas station in response to “a disturbance involving a person armed with a knife,” and found Pellerin in the store’s parking lot with a knife, according to a statement by the Louisiana State Police. When officers attempted to arrest him, Pellerin left and officers trailed him for half-a-mile before using Tasers. They then shot him 11 times, authorities said.
Pellerin died in the hospital. All six officers involved have been placed on leave while an investigation is underway. The Louisiana ACLU called the scene a “horrific and deadly incident of police violence against a Black person” when the video of Pellerin being shot went viral.
Protests broke out in the city shortly after, including one group who grilled hot dogs and burgers outside Guillory’s home, inviting him to come outside and discuss Pellerin’s death at the hands of police over barbecue, the Acadiana Advocate reported.
In response to those protests, authorities in Lafayette said they would not extend shelter to neighboring communities.
“We are not in a position to safeguard people displaced by Laura,” said Lafayette’s Chief Administrative Officer Cydra Wingerter said in an email distributed to anyone involved in disaster response, according to Acadiana Advocate. “Bad actors will take our hospitality and use it against us.”
The statement continued, “It goes against what we believe and how we usually respond after a disaster but it would be irresponsible to potentially put others in harms way.”
The local government maintained they did nothing wrong by blocking their emergency shelter responses, stating that there are plenty of state resources available. “I don’t think this will prevent anyone from getting shelter. Will they have to maybe go a little farther? Unfortunately, that’s probably the case,” communications director Jamie Angelle confirmed to the Acadiana Advocate.
Angelle noted that the recent protest “was a lawful and peaceful protest,” and the Acadiana Advocate reported that all arrested at the demonstration appeared to be local to Lafayette, citing public records. Angelle also said that the local pastors who operate the emergency shelters were worried about the threat of outsiders.
Nevertheless, the Washington Post reported that interim police chief Scott Morgan said in a Saturday news conference, “They’re not our community. They’re not our people. They’re coming over here for trouble. Don’t support them, don’t get involved with them, stay out of it.”