SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Employees working in the parking enforcement department of the Downtown Development Authority are speaking out about encounters with racism on the job and raising concerns about their employer’s response.
The concerns are being raised as the Deputy Director of the Downtown Development Authority was already trying to walk back comments made on her Facebook page regarding the recent Black Lives Matter protests.
DDA Parking Patrol employee Detric Bell says the latest incident happened a few weeks ago on Marshall Street when workers for SBC Bail Bonds took issue with his request to move his vehicle or risk a ticket.
“It started outside with the n-word. We called our supervisor and when we came upstairs with him, that’s when it escalated. They started with the racial slurs again and one of their guys pushed my coworker. So when he pushed him, and we pushed back, two of them unholstered their weapons, about to draw down on us.”
It wasn’t the first time he had run into this kind of racism and aggression, but it was a terrifying experience for Bell, who has worked for the DDA for five years.
“The cops came and they took a statement from me, my coworker and my supervisor, and they said they had one other incident with them up there before.”
When contacted for comment, SBC Bail Bonds owner Victor Llanito said Bell’s accusations are false, despite video evidence and a police report.
“Obviously curses were exchanged when people argue with each other. Vulgar words were thrown. He put his hand on the gun, but we are trained better than that. We don’t just pull our guns just on anybody,” says Llanito.
“People do act badly when they get tickets and guns are legal. People can do open carry. People can do concealed carry. That’s another discussion for another day, ” said DDA Executive Director Liz Swaine.
Bell says Swaine’s response doesn’t surprise him.
“She play the babe in the woods like she got blinders on to the world. ‘Oh, I just don’t think they don’t like anybody.’ Naw, they are racist, because the cops say they are racist.”
He hopes his experience encourages DDA to do a better job protecting employees and not turn a blind eye to racism.
“We’ve had other incidents downtown where people have waved guns. We’ve had other incidents where people have said hateful and hurtful things. Unfortunately, this is not the first time someone has used that word and unfortunately, it won’t be the last time,” said Swaine.
Just this week, DDA Deputy Director Janie Landry was in some hot water herself after posting this on her personal Facebook page.
Swaine says Landry was asked to remove the post after it was brought to the attention of the board.
“It was a personal statement made on her personal Facebook page and she acknowledged it was inappropriate. It was inappropriate. I at this point am not comfortable with taking any additional steps. That certainly could be up to the board,” says Swaine.
Swaine wasn’t able to say whether the DDA Board will take further action, but as of Thursday, Landry is still on the job and has only been issued a warning.
The Downtown Development Authority issued a statement Thursday afternoon in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement.
“Let us be unequivocal. Racism —in any of its iterations— has no place downtown. We believe that Black Lives Matter. We stand in solidarity with those who advocate for racial justice.”
Read the full statement on the Shreveport DDA page here.