TIME cities

Protestors Throw a Confederate Flag on the Grill in New Orleans

Demonstrators used the 2015 Essence Festival taking place in the city to draw attention to a movement

Just blocks from the 2015 Essence Festival, where civil rights leaders are gathering to discuss what’s next in the Black Lives Matter movement, a crowd of a nearly 100 protesters stood in the unrelenting New Orleans heat Saturday to demand action around a subject that’s been gaining steam in the wake of the Charleston church massacre.

Demonstrators burned a confederate battle flag in a charcoal grill beneath a towering statue honoring confederate general Robert E. Lee. The statue and other monuments to Confederate leaders that pepper the city, they demanded, must come down. “Down, down with the racist monuments. Up, up with the people’s empowerment,” the crowd chanted in unison.

At the base of Lee’s figure, which stands atop a 60ft column in a sprawling and immaculately kept circle also named after the general, two organizers of the protests ripped and burned a confederate battle flag that was purchased from the Confederate Memorial Museum, located just steps away.

The flag, according to an organizer who identified himself only as Quess, cost $22. As the flag crackled in the charcoal grill, local trumpeter Mario Abney performed a jazzy melody and the crowd jeered and hooted. It was a far cry from Fourth of July barbecues taking place elsewhere in the United States.

The national campaign to drive symbols of the confederacy out of the American mainstream was lent a sense of urgency by the shooting of nine black Americans in Charleston, South Carolina in June. The alleged shooter, Dylann Roof, posed with a confederate battle flag in images posted online alongside a racist screed.

In the wake of the massacre, the South Carolina legislature moved to remove the flag from outside its statehouse — a previously unthinkable act in a state where support for the flag as a symbol of Southern heritage still rides high.

It was a bitter-tasting victory for a decades-long movement that had been gaining traction even before the shootings. Activists in New Orleans have won a series of concessions over the years — the moving of a monument commemorating a bloody battle that many black residents felt glorified white supremacy; the removal of the names of confederacy figures from a handful of schools. And last week, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said he wanted to rename Lee Circle and remove the statue. The change will likely coincide with the city’s tri-centennial celebration in 2018.

But the protestors at Saturday’s march and rally don’t want to wait that long. “We don’t need any more dialogue, we need demolition,” said Rev. Marie Ortiz, a veteran activist in the New Orleans area. Earlier, Ortiz told the crowd she’d been pushing for the removal of confederate symbols since her early 30s. She wants a figure of New Orleans Civil Rights leader Rev. Avery Alexander to replace Lee.

“If his words were sincere and he meant it, it doesn’t matter when he takes it down. Now is the time to do it,” the 75-year-old said.

Ortiz was among those who marched from New Orleans’ Canal Street Ferry Station to Lee Circle Saturday. The group trekked down New Orleans’ Convention Center Boulevard just past noon, occupying the same sidewalks and streets as cheerful tourists in town for the 21st annual Essence Festival. Many stopped to take pictures and chant along in solidarity.

The group later veered onto Magazine Street, which houses the National World War II Museum, weaving in and out of clusters of confused tourists. Once they reached the statue, the protestors sang, chanted, and signed a petition calling for the immediate removal of Lee’s statue and others found throughout the Big Easy, including a statue of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States.

“There are monuments like these all over the city and these symbols create the environment for police brutality and oppression,” said Quess, the organizer who led the flag-burning. “Black lives really don’t matter if there are all of these monuments to our former oppressors.”

TIME cities

New York City Just Froze Rent on One-Year Leases for the First Time Ever

Move comes after report shows renters struggling while landlord incomes grow

For the first time in its 46-year history, New York City’s Rent Guidelines Board voted on June 29 to freeze rent on one-year leases and to limit two-year lease increases to a comparatively low 2%. The freeze applies to leases on rent-stabilized apartments beginning in October.

The vote came after the board, which regulates rent for more than 1 million such apartments, released a report in April showing that while landlords’ incomes have grown for nine consecutive years, renters in stabilized housing have experienced both unchanged income and rising housing costs, the New York Times reports.

However, Joseph Strasburg, president of the Rent Stabilization Association, an organization for landlords, said the outcome is ultimately negative and that “landlords will now have to forgo repairing, maintaining and preserving their apartments, which will trigger the deterioration of quality, affordable housing.”

A 2014 housing survey conducted by the city showed that the median rent-to-income ratio was nearly 34% and that a third of rental households paid more than half of their income in rent.

New York’s move comes as San Francisco grapples with imposing a construction moratorium in its Mission neighborhood to give the city a chance to purchase property for affordable housing. New York placed third behind San Francisco and Atlanta in speed of rising rents for 2014, and the city has periodically fielded calls for stricter rent control during this decade’s tech boom.

[NYT]

TIME cities

Charleston Bans Protests at Funerals of Church Shooting Victims

The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is seen after a mass shooting five days that killed nine people, on June 22, 2015.
Joe Raedle—Getty Images The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is seen after a mass shooting five days that killed nine people, on June 22, 2015.

New ordinance places restrictions on potential picketers

The Charleston City Council has unanimously passed a temporary ordinance that bans protests or picketing at funerals in advance of services this week for the nine people slain at a historic black church.

The ordinance passed Tuesday evening states that no one may protest or picket within 300 feet of a church or other building holding a funeral, memorial or burial for one hour before and one hour after the service.

Mayor Joe Riley said at the meeting that police recommended the ordinance after receiving information that a group may want to protest at one of the funerals.

Police Chief Gregory Mullen declined to say what group or groups may want to protest. He said the information about protests wasn’t related to the Confederate flag debate.

TIME Innovation

How the Maker Movement Could Reinvent Baltimore

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. How Baltimore’s vacant industrial buildings can spawn a new maker movement.

By Anthony Flint in CityLab

2. “How is it possible…not to think that we have witnessed a lynching?”

By David Remnick in the New Yorker

3. The in-house think tank for Congress costs taxpayers millions every year. Make its reports accessible to all.

By the editorial board of the New York Times

4. This game helps citizens understand the cost — and tradeoffs — of running a city.

By Jay Cassano in Fast Co.Exist

5. Can we afford to let Russia bail out Greece?

By David Francis in Foreign Policy

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Race

Rachel Dolezal Breaks Silence: ‘I Identify as Black’

"This is not some freak, Birth of a Nation blackface performance"

Rachel Dolezal has spoken out about the “complexity” of her identity for the first time since news broke that she had been masquerading as a black woman despite her white roots.

In an interview on NBC’s Today Show, the former leader of Spokane’s NAACP said she identifies as black and has for a long time. “This is not some freak, Birth of a Nation blackface performance,” she said. “This is on a real connected level how I’ve had to go there with the experience.”

Dolezal says she has few regrets in regard to interviews she’s done over the years where she hasn’t been particularly clear about her race or “racial identity,” but ultimately she wouldn’t do anything differently.

“My life has been one of survival,” Dolezal said on Tuesday. ” The decisions I’ve made along the way, including my identification, have been to survive.”

Dolezal’s appearance and story have spurred controversy in the days since her parents told news reporters that she is Caucasian, not African-American, as she’s been telling people over the past several years.

But the activist said she had identified as black since she was about five years old. “I was drawing self-portraits with the brown crayon instead of the peach crayon,” she said.

Amid the backlash, Dolezal also lost her post as a part-time professor of Africana studies at Eastern Washington University. The Smoking Gun reported she had once sued Howard University, a historically black institution, for discriminating against her because she was white.

And on Monday, Dolezal resigned as the president of the Spokane chapter of the NAACP. In a Facebook post, the 37-year-old said despite stepping down she would “never stop fighting for human rights.”

“This is not about me,” she wrote. “It’s about justice. This is not me quitting; this is a continuum.”

TIME cities

Some Liquor Stores Damaged in Baltimore Riots Denied Recovery Aid

Alex Wong—Getty Images Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake speaks during a news conference in front of the burned CVS in the Sandtown neighborhood May 7, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland.

They've been told to relocate or sell healthier items

Almost two dozen liquor stores that sustained damage in the Baltimore riots following the late-April funeral of Freddie Gray will not receive city recovery aid, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said Monday, unless they pick up and move or start selling healthier items.

Acknowledging that the city’s decision involving 23 liquor stores was based on their noncompliance with a zoning ban on alcohol sales, the Baltimore Sun reports, she used the time to urge the impacted stores to rethink their sales identity. “I have a great amount of sympathy for those stores that have been damaged, and we want them to rebuild,” she said. “We want them to reopen. But with all the grants and the loan programs that we have available we have a unique opportunity for these nonconforming liquor stores to convert into uses that can uplift our community.”

Out of 40 liquor stores damaged in the rioting—of 400 businesses overall—these 23 are in residential neighborhoods where the sale of alcohol is banned, having been grandfathered in under an older system. Those in commercial areas will receive city aid, but ones that aren’t will not. (The state does not have a similar restriction and is offering interest-free loans up to $35,000.)

The city’s health commissioner joined Rawlings-Blake for the remarks in Park Heights, a neighborhood heavy with liquor stores, as did Sharon Green Middleton, the City Councilwoman who represents that area. “Crime and grime is around liquor stores,” Middleton said. “So if they’re not going to work with the community, and change, they need to go.”

Read more at The Baltimore Sun

TIME cities

This New Jersey Beach Town Closed Because It Was Out of Room

Sandy Second Summer-Pollution Flights
Wayne Parry/AP This July 11, 2014 aerial photo shows the Shark River Inlet in Belmar, N.J.

Belmar closed off all roads leading into town

One New Jersey town couldn’t handle the heat this weekend.

The mayor of Belmar announced via Twitter at 3 p.m. Sunday that the 1.6-mile beach town was effectively closed because it had “reached its capacity.”

“Belmar has reached it capacity and we are shutting down all traffic into town from Route 35 effective immediately,” Matt Doherty said.

All roads into the town were blocked off, although full-time residents could bypass the closures by showing their license. After an unprecedented influx of visitors, Doherty consulted the police department and decided to stop any more people from entering for public safety reasons, NJ.com reports.

Belmar’s population during the year is only 6,000, but it soars to more than 60,000 in the summer months. Sunday was what Doherty called a “perfect storm of good things,” with the town hosting the 29th annual New Jersey Seafood Festival under sunny skies. The festival drew 200,000 visitors over the course of the weekend.

The Route 35 entrances to Belmar reopened at 7 p.m. Sunday night.

MONEY Millennials

Do Millennials Really Want to Live in Cities?

MONEY's Millennials discuss whether urban living is really what they want for the rest of their lives.

Not necessarily. Census data shows more young people are leaving cities than are moving into them. Millennial homeownership is up from 28% to 32%, but millennials recognize it’s an expensive but life-enriching experience to live in a city. We agree it’s great to live in a city before you have a spouse and children, when you can really take advantage of a city’s culture, but those things — like a strong nightlife and good bodega — lose importance when you start having kids. Things like good neighborhoods with good schools take their place.

Read next: What Everyone Gets Wrong About Millennials and Home Buying

MONEY Startups

Google’s Sidewalk Labs Could Ease Cities’ Growing Pains

As more and more people move into cities, Google wants to make urban areas more efficient places to live.

Google’s new startup Sidewalk Labs is trying to help cities ease growing pains as more and more people leave the suburbs and rural areas to move to major metro areas like Austin, Texas; Raleigh, N.C.; and Phoenix, Ariz. Former NYC deputy mayor Dan Doctoroff is leading the startup. Google already runs apps designed to simplify urban living, like Google Maps and Waze. The U.N. estimates 60% of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2030.

TIME LGBT

Boston’s City Hall Is Getting Gender-Neutral Bathrooms

“Today marks a historic moment in Boston,” Mayor Martin Walsh said

Employees and visitors of Boston’s City Hall will be able to use gender-neutral bathrooms in the building.

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh signed an executive order on Thursday to immediately establish the restrooms on the fifth floor, outside Walsh’s office and the City Council chamber. In a statement, the city said Boston was among the first City Halls to do so in New England.

“Boston thrives on diversity, and is an inclusive city,” Walsh said in the statement. “This change will foster a safe and welcoming environment for employees and visitors, and will go a long way as we continue to work towards improving the lives of those who love and call Boston home.”

And following up the statement with a tweet, he called himself #WickedProud to make this happen.

Read next: States Battle Over Bathroom Access for Transgender People

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