On September 9, 1960, seven local university students staged a sit-in at Woolworth’s department store located at 1031 Canal Street to protest the store’s refusal to serve Black people at the lunch counter. According to The New Orleans States Item, this protest was “the first organized demonstration of its kind in New Orleans.”  The New Orleans chapter of Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) organized the protest and all seven protestors were CORE members.
Protesters included five Black students and two white students--Jerome Smith of Southern University, Ruth Despenza of Southern University, Joyce Taylor of Xavier University, William Harper of University of New Orleans, Hugh Murray Jr. of Tulane University, William Harrell of Tulane University, and Archie Allen of Dillard University. Woolworth’s employees refused to serve the students when they sat down together at the lunch counter. The students remained seated at the counter while waitresses continued to serve white patrons. 
Crowds gathered to watch the protest. Store officials closed and barricaded the lunch counter, but the student protestors remained. Meanwhile, over forty police officers patrolled the store and surrounding area. District Attorney Richard A. Dowling ordered the students to leave the lunch counter, but they refused, and Dowling ordered their arrest. New Orleans Police Officers, under the direction of Superintendent Joseph I. Giarruso, arrested all seven protestors. Newspaper coverage of the arrests detailed the protestors’ names, age, school affiliation, and home address. 
Following the protest at Woolworth’s, Mayor Chep Morrison declared that sit-ins and picketing demonstrations were not permitted and directed the police department to prohibit the demonstrations through enforcement of Act 70 and Act 80 passed by the 1960 State Legislature. Under these new laws, demonstrators could be arrested for disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct, or obstructing public sidewalks.  However, civil rights activists continued to hold protests and boycotts against Woolworth’s and other stores on Canal Street. In addition to calling for racially integrated services, protestors demanded stores employ Black people.
In a 2017 interview, Dr. Raphael Cassimere reflected on his participation in the Canal Street protests. At the time of the protests, Cassimere was a student at the University of New Orleans (then LSUNO) and president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Youth Council. Cassimere stated that he never expected the protests to last so long, but it was not until 1965 (when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 went into effect) that Canal Street retailers finally yielded to protestors’ demands.  For more of Dr. Cassimere’s reflections on the Canal Street protests, see the video segments below.