Mayor-President Kip Holden and other speakers Wednesday accused Holden’s best-financed challenger in the mayor’s race, Metro Councilman Mike Walker, of playing the race card in a television ad that links Holden to Nation of Islam minister Louis Farrakhan.
Holden and others held a news conference downtown Wednesday afternoon to denounce the ad.
The ad shows video of the 79-year-old Farrakhan — who spoke at Southern University on Oct. 3 — thanking the mayor and the police chief for escort and security services he received during his visit. City police and State Police personnel were involved in providing security at the event and during Farrakhan’s trips to and from the airport in New Orleans.
The ad alleges public funds and police personnel used to protect and ferry Farrakhan could be better spent on adding police officers. As a limousine is shown pulling away from City Hall, a voice over says “Mayor, our police and taxes are for fighting crime, not for limoing Louie.”
John Noland, the chairman of the East Baton Rouge Parish Redevelopment Authority’s board of commissioners, said the ad would set race relations back in the parish.
“I am involved in two things now, Together Baton Rouge and the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority, that exist primarily to promote racial harmony,” he said. “This job is hard enough without negative, contrived ads adding to the division.”
Businesswoman Pat Felder said ads like Walker’s were “meant to tear the community apart.”
Contacted afterward, Walker denied the ad was about race.
“The point is that utilizing Baton Rouge Police to escort private citizens is bad policy,” he said. “It’s a misuse of taxpayer dollars.”
Holden denounced the ad’s implication that he ordered security for Farrakhan or that he had met with the Nation of Islam leader.
“We cannot allow this to go unanswered,” Holden said. “My whereabouts, on Oct. 3, are well documented.”
The night Farrakhan spoke at Southern, Holden attended a political forum for mayoral candidates at St. Aloysius Church.
The security for Farrakhan’s visit was arranged by the Louisiana State Police and the Baton Rouge City Police Department, Holden said.
“I do not micromanage the Police Department,” Holden said. “The entire spot is fabricated.”
Those comments were backed up by Police Chief Dewayne White, who said he had assigned one officer to escort Farrakhan from New Orleans to Baton Rouge and back after his speech. “Three or four” other officers were deployed for security while Farrakhan delivered his speech, White said.
“There are people who would consider Farrakhan a high-value target,” White said.
The protection offered Farrakhan was similar to arrangements made to protect presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, and former President Bill Clinton, White said.
White said he had an officer present to ensure the “fluid movement” of Farrakhan to and from Baton Rouge.
Walker characterized the protective detail as an “abuse of police manpower.”
Those officers “should be on the streets of Baton Rouge in this time of a crime emergency,” he said.
If elected, Walker said, he would do away with the policy of having Baton Rouge Police officers escort private citizens.
The mayor should speak with Farrakhan if he had a problem with the ad, Walker said.