Thursday, September 15, 2005

Katrina Relief: News and Quotes from Algiers for Sept. 15

Katrina Relief Digest
Updated: September 15th
Location: The Algiers community adjacent to downtown New Orleans, Louisiana

Mayor Ray Nagin announced Thursday that Algiers will be the first of the communities in New Orleans to reopen to residents. While FEMA and the Red Cross will surely trumpet their efforts, the real success of Algiers belongs to those courageous community members who stayed through the storm and activist Malik Rahim who helped to catalyze the bustling Common Ground Relief effort.

Common Ground was the first on the ground relief effort of any kind in Algiers and one of the first along the Gulf Coast. The multiple success stories of Common Ground mutual aid has resulted in donations from Army personnel who wanted to see relief actually get to the community. The FEMA/Red Cross effort, bounded by razor wire, has played a poor second fiddle to the local efforts.

We anticipate an even greater need for relief support when residents begin moving back to the area. To support Common Ground, send donations to Common Ground, PO Box 3216, Gretna, LA 70054. Please pace your donations. Please no clothes or food. More information and online monetary donations will be available soon at the new action website at

Media team members have created a phenomenal communications effort here in Algiers. Today, the Common Ground Relief website came online at This website will be an information clearinghouse for relief activities, needed supplies and breaking news.

Volunteers with Common Ground and Get Your Act On ( are now cleaning and prepping a location within the highly publicized 9th Ward for a community wellness clinic. Mobile medic teams are already on the ground in the 9th serving the residents who braved the storm.
Downtown New Orleans still remains under tight military and law enforcement control. NOPD officers have expressed their displeasure with efforts to bring relief to this part of New Orleans.

"You can't start a clinic here [the 9th Ward]. That would give people hope. My job is to make their lives as hopeless as possible so they will leave." More good will from the "official" relief effort courtesy of New Orleans Police Department.

We are now sending out teams to other areas of the Gulf coast to perform emergency medical aid (EMA) and perform community needs assessments. From this data-gathering, we can more effectively focus community-based mutual aid efforts in these areas.

Food Not Bombs and other mutual aid workers report that some communities in areas like Slidell, Louisiana have seen virtually no aid since the hurricane hit 16 days ago! Common Ground is also working with St. Marys Church in Algiers to ascertain the community needs in the surrounding parishes that have been devastated to a greater degree than New Orleans. Veterans for Peace caravans are also reporting on communities in need.


PROPS!.....The People of Algiers
In a span of just fourteen days the people of Algiers have lived through Katrina, a military take over, white supremacists, and a bumbling relief effort by the behemoth beauracracies of FEMA and the Red Cross. From the vibrant energy of activist Malik Rahim to the helping hands of local residents, they have opened their homes and their lives to those outside the community and have contributed to making Algiers the first community to reopen.

PROPS!.....Veterans for Peace Chapter 116, Their Volunteers, and Michael Moore
A great partner in the Common Ground effort has been Camp Casey in Covington and Veterans For Peace(VFP) Chapter 116. This effort has been openly funded and supported by Michael Moore and his staff. VFP has brought us food, supplies, and information about other areas along the coast. For more information about Camp Casey in Covington visit

**PAN$.....FEMA's God Squad Photo-Op
Leave it to a FEMA backed relief agency to provide the daily hiccup in what is otherwise a determined and efficient relief effort here in Algiers FEMA, the Red Cross and the military have mostly played second fiddle to Common Ground in Algiers. But after learning the Common Ground Wellness Center (a converted mosque) was in need of extra doctors and medical staff, a member of FEMA's faith-based god-squad showed up for a few hours of relief from two nurses, and a physicians assistant. "The calvary is here," the white man yelled as he climbed out of their van!
One of their photographers rushed to photograph their entrance into the clinic. About fifteen minutes later, one of their video camera crews proceeded to set up in the clinic area despite the signs that said "NO CAMERAS INSIDE" presumably to show the 'calvary' in action. Chaos quickly ensued and thankfully no patients were in the clinic at the time.

A quickly organized meeting of the clinic staff and the video photographer was asked to leave. And then the photographer left. And then the medical staff walked out! Hmmm, do you think they will come back tomorrow?

PAN$.....NOPD and NYPD
The New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) has a solid reputation... of corruption and lawlessness. Now that the Army has backed out of their community policing efforts, the state and local officials have taken their place. Among the police involved: our friends from NYPD - New York Police Department. Now, it seems like everyone and their brother had a NYPD shirt following 9/11 but their driving through Algiers in an unmarked black van openly brandishing shotguns fell short in the community relations department. Did anyone bother to tell them the only terrorists here were with the Federal government?

We are in desperate need of doctors, nurses, PAs, medics and support personnel in addition to basic volunteers. The more people who come to Algiers and get involved with Common Ground, the more communities can be supported by mutual aid. If you think the crisis is over, you would be mistaken. Medics are still saving lives and food and personal items are still in demand.


Blogger Boris Epstein said...

"You can't start a clinic here [the 9th Ward]. That would give people hope. My job is to make their lives as hopeless as possible so they will leave." More good will from the "official" relief effort courtesy of New Orleans Police Department.

Unbelievable! Who said that?

And thanks for your great report.


12:18 PM  
Blogger coley said...

It was told directly to me (and the three volenteers with me) by a National Guardsman while we were in the 9th Ward delivering food, water, and supplies to an elderly woman who deals with some psycological probelms such as paranoia. Because of these problems she will not leave her home. As we left her home we were accosted by two National Guardsman and a NOPD officer who wanted to know what we were doing. As we explained what we were doing and our hopes for eventually bringing a clinc to the region we were told that our goals were contradictory to their goals and that we shouldn't give the woman hope that she will be able to stay in her home, because they will not allow that to happen...even though her home was never flooded and only had minor wind damage.


6:33 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

Can anyone balance the reportage on this page by offering some positive commentary about the Natl Guard and some negative commentary about Common Ground?
Only the naive believe that any group is all good or all bad. Let's tell the rest of the story so we're all better informed.

1:18 PM  

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