“Hard Rock, Take Your Building Down”

By Cassie Hayno

On January 24, 2020 around 3PM, New Orleans residents were treated to a moving chant.

“Knock knock!”

“Hard Rock, take your building down!”

“Knock knock!”

The veins in the face and neck of protest organizer Trey Monaghan bulged as he passionately screamed the call into his megaphone while walking through downtown New Orleans. The group of New Orleanians was a mod podge of exactly what would be expected from the city. Protestors carried signs denouncing the Hard Rock, Citadel, and various New Orleans city representatives. They wore costumes, including two women who dressed as patriotic clowns. They sang as a woman belted out “take it down,” taking turns with a young man who vocalized along. A drum kept cadence of the chant. “Knock knock!” “Hard Rock, take your building down!” “Take it down!” The call was heard from the Hard Rock site on Canal Street all the way to City Hall.

Over 200 desolated citizens arrived at Canal Street to march to and chant outside New Orleans City Hall to bring attention to a tragedy. On the morning of October 12, 2019, an 18-story building killed three construction workers and injured many more when it collapsed. City officials, as well as representatives from the Hard Rock Hotel, Citadel construction company, and owners of 1031 Canal, worked together to not only to get the bodies of two construction workers out, but to also take down the unstable building. Their efforts were unsuccessful.

The outrage immediately following the catastrophe was deafening. For weeks, news outlets, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and all forms of media were flooded with prayers, thoughts, and the most important question that was on everyone’s minds, “Why did this happen?”

After more than three months, the collapse had phased out of main-stream news and conversation. However, at the end of January 2020, images of a body of one of the two the unobtainable workers circulated social media after a tarp covering it fell. The Hard Rock Hotel collapse story stepped back into the spotlight as citizens cried out in rage and devastation.

According to Trey Monaghan, son of the owner of Molly’s on the Market and organizer of the march, the people of New Orleans had three goals for the march: change the language used by city officials when talking about the Hard Rock collapse; demand a public hearing; and tighten the Responsible Bidders Ordinances (RBOs) for New Orleans.  

At city hall, emotional protestors were met by New Orleans Councilmember Jason Williams, one of the five councilmembers for the city of New Orleans who are calling for a special public hearing regarding the Hard Rock Hotel’s collapse. “If this were a corner bar that did not have proper safety measures and people got burned inside,” said Williams, “there would not be the level of coddling there is here.”

City Councilmember Kristin Palmer also had organizer Trey Monaghan read a statement from her office. Palmer’s statement revealed that she and her colleagues lead their quest for a public hearing with empathy and respect for the families who lost loved ones in the collapse, and the workers who were on the site that day.

Monaghan was more than happy with the turn out of the protest saying “[It] means we are another step closer. It is amazing to have councilmember Williams here, councilmember Palmer, the five councilmembers who have spoken out for a public hearing. This is something that was not spoken about Tuesday when we could all see the legs [of the deceased worker]. Things are changing. Things are moving. We are taking the momentum back and we are putting the power where it belongs. With the people. The citizens of this city.”

Since the protest, New Orleans mayor Latoya Cantrell has been vocal about her displeasure in the city council’s attempt to form a public hearing. In a letter addressed to councilmembers Jason Williams and Helena Moreno, Latoya Cantrell wrote, “Your decision to move forward with a Special Council Hearing, in an effort to create a public forum for the public to air their frustration with the Hard Rock Hotel collapse, is ill-advised at this time and puts the timely demolition and the ongoing investigation of the site at risk. Given these concerns, my staff will not be present at the hearing.”

The New Orleans City Council has been successful in organizing a special committee to hold hearings regarding the collapse, despite Mayor Cantrell’s protests, and the committee held their first public meeting on January 31, 2020.  

“Never forget the victims and the significance of the site,” said Trey Monaghan referencing the location of the Hard Rock being the former Woolworth’s. The protest and subsequent special committee show just how shaken up the people of New Orleans are by the Hard Rock collapse. Citizens throughout the Greater New Orleans area will continue to anxiously wait for answers to the questions that Councilmember Palmer asked in her statement: “Why did this happen? Who is responsible? And how do we keep it from happening again?”

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