I concur. The General was using good psychology.
There was a similar incident in 2003 in the early days of the Iraqi invasion. US troops were conducting a sweep through some town when a rumor was started that they planned to attack the local mosque. A huge menacing crowd of townspeople surrounded the American troops and things appeared as if they were about to get violent.
The officer in charge evaluated the situation and gave the order to his unit to "take a knee", which meant to drop to one knee and lower their weapons so they were pointed at the ground instead of the crowd. It seemed like suicidal order.
The angry crowd, however, stopped in amazement at the sight of a military force they knew could probably kill them all, instead moving snappily and with precision into a non-threatening position which in their culture denoted respect. No other military they had ever seen or imagined, especially Saddam's, would have made such a gesture.
The angry Iraqi crowd immediately fell silent, and then began to disperse. A few even waved at the soldiers. The pressure had been released, safely, and the troops went on to complete their mission.
That's what this General in New Orleans was doing. To people in abject misery who have lost everything else, he at least gave them back a little dignity and respect, and they responded accordingly. It's called leadership.