Photo: Jon Shapley/Staff Photographer
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After the torrential rain and high winds of Hurricane Laura pummeled Lake Charles last week, storm evacuees searching for a place to land may not be getting emergency shelter in the city of Lafayette anytime soon.
Although Lafayette is about 75 miles down the road from Lake Charles, many evacuees are now heading to Alexandria, which is about 98 miles away.
Lafayette missed the punishing blow from Hurricane Laura, but the city’s leaders are wary of something deemed a “serious local security threat”: protesters, according to a report from The Acadiana Advocate citing emails from Lafayette city leaders.
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“This is a serious threat and we must handle this issue before we can care for our neighbors,” Lafayette Parish Chief Administrative Officer Cydra Wingerter wrote in a Saturday email. “It goes against what we believe and how we usually respond after a disaster but it would be irresponsible to potentially put others in harm’s way.”
An email from Wingerter asked those involved in disaster response in the parish to “take a pause on any action to establish shelters at the time,” according to the Advocate.
The recent protests in Lafayette stemmed from the deadly police shooting of Trayford Pellerin. Pellerin, 31, was shot by police officers on August 21 after a report of a man wielding a knife causing a disturbance at a convenience store, according to the Lafayette Daily Advertiser. Police say that Pellerin was holding the knife and approaching the store when officers opened fire, shooting him 11 times.
Although the protests of Pellerin’s shooting have been peaceful, Lafayette city leaders said they are concerned about the possibility of tensions mounting. Protesters against police brutality marched through the streets Saturday near the General Alfred Mouton Confederate monument in downtown Lafayette, according to the Advertiser.
“We are not in a position to safeguard people displaced by Laura with this serious, local security threat,” Wingerter wrote in an email, according to the Advocate. “We know that bad actors will take our hospitality and use it against us.”
A spokesperson for the Lafayette Consolidated Government, Jamie Angelle, added that the situation in Lafayette wouldn’t prevent giving evacuees shelter.
“I don’t think this will prevent anyone from getting shelter,” Angelle told the Advocate. “Will they have to go a little farther? Unfortunately, that’s probably the case.”
Angelle said the protests in Lafayette had been peaceful so far.
“In no way are we saying that (Saturday’s) protest was dangerous or violent,” Angelle told the Advocate. “It was a lawful and peaceful protest, and we certainly hope it remains that way. Just given everything that’s circulating — if you look at last weekend and the event that happened on the north side — our fear is that something will happen.”