A New Orleans zoo has canceled an upcoming police celebration event after hearing complaints it could be “unintentionally divisive.”
The Audubon Zoo and Audubon Aquarium of the Americas released a statement Wednesday saying its “Blue at the Zoo” event next week, in partnership with the New Orleans Police Department and the New Orleans Police & Justice Foundation, was aimed to “promote and foster positive interactive experiences” with the police.
The event, which offered discounts to attendees who wore blue, was canceled after the zoo heard concerns from “members of our community and from persons outside of our community, who feel this event could be unintentionally divisive rather than inclusive.”
“Though that was never the intent, Audubon Nature Institute made the decision to cancel the event,” the zoo said, WWL-TV reported. “Audubon will continue to work with the New Orleans Police & Justice Foundation to find ways to support the New Orleans Police Department.”
NOPD Superintendent Shaun Ferguson on Wednesday called the cancellation a disappointment.
“I was disheartened as a result of that decision,” he told WWL-TV. “This has turned into an ugly situation, but it is not a result of them not supporting us. They had to make a decision. We understand it.
“Anyone looking at the issue objectively would see that our department is the model for the implementation of the Constitutional policing reforms the public is demanding,” he said. “Despite the cancellation of this event, we will continue to find ways to work with our community to build a stronger relationship and be the department they deserve.”
Melanie Talia, president and CEO of the Police & Justice Foundation, said the organization is “terribly disappointed” by the decision.
“We know our community appreciates NOPD and when it comes to Mardi Gras, we like to say there would be no purple, green and gold without the blue,” she said.
The zoo said in its statement that it “understands and appreciates that the issue of ethical policing is at the forefront of our nation and our local community and that NOPD is a nationally recognized leader in law enforcement reform.
“Audubon stands firm in its support for holding law enforcement accountable for any and all unethical and unlawful behavior,” the statement continued. “Audubon also supports efforts that promote healing between law enforcement and the community. As such, working with the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation, Audubon will be considering alternative ways to promote meaningful and impactful community engagement with the New Orleans Police Department.”