Friday, September 16, 2005

Reality Check

Updated: September 16th
Location: French Quarter, 9th Ward, Lower 9th Ward and St. Bernard Parish

Hurricane relief got real today. A team of us took a day-long fact-finding trip through downtown New Orleans, the French Quarter, 9th Ward, Lower 9th Ward and St. Bernard Parish. Along the way we passed haunting landmarks of human struggle made famous by the media whores covering the storm: the Civic Center, the Walgreens drugstore featured in the AP "looting" photo, and the flooded homes of the lower 9th Ward. I'm finding it difficult to articulate what I experienced today. But I'm going to try.

Today an earnest hurricane survivor described his experiences surviving both the storm, and the gestapo tactics of the local and Federal law enforcement units since the storm. Just two nights ago, ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms) and US Marshalls raided a house next to his. Using the armed cover of a hovering helicopter, agents with machine guns stormed a house. Flash-bang grenades were used and shooting ensued. Who was shot? Did the person or persons die? Why were they targeted in the first place? Whatever the answers, I can assure you this won't make your local news and if I'm not mistaken, it wasn't addressed by King George on his latest photo-op in the Big Easy.

My opinion of several progressive news outlets has plummeted watching their coverage of the storm. It's as if Hurricane Katrina has become a tired and used story UNLESS it's an opportuntity to bash Bush or harp on global warming. I hate to pick on "friends", but the raw reality of what's occurring down here has ceased getting the attention it did when we were all watching CNN 24/7. I got news for folks, Iraq is important, but we have our own Iraq occurring within our country live and in living color.

While in the French Quarter this morning I heard that despite the glossy news in the corporate news, squirmishes are still occuring within portions of the 9th Ward. This impoverished area just east and north of the French Quarter, was the focal point of the racist news coverage during the storm. I can personally attest to the fact that 90% of the businesses which had been forced open were locations to get food, water, shelter or things like chairs. And still, even tonight, teams of military, US Marshalls, and local police perform sweeps and raids on the remaining hold-outs. We will never know the true death-toll of the storm, nor the near certain fact that many brown and black residents were gunned down in cold blood in a form of ethnic cleansing.

Just southeast of New Orleans and the 9th Ward is St. Bernard Parish and the cities of Arabi, Chalmette, and Meraux.. It is also home to the major petroleum refineries, chemical factories and accompanying Super-Fund sites. The area suffered massive storm and flood damage. It's wrecked.

Disparate reports of residents returning abound. One report says residents can return next week, while another says they can return for ONE day next week to gather belongings and assess damage to their homes. Whatever the answer, the area can't possibly be ready for the public. A toxic sheen of film or mud from the flood covers just about everything and dust blows across the concrete and grass. It's like walking into Love Canal. Unbelievable.

When we returned from our trip today I washed my shoes in a bleach/water solution, set-aside my clothes, and took a long shower. Are the authorities going to warn residents to protect themselves, or simply let them root among the toxic chemicals, black mold, and e-coli bacteria?

Many of you heard or read about the incident where desperate storm survivors were trying to leave New Orleans (population 2/3 black) over the Crescent City Connection Bridge leading to the City of Greta (population 2/3 white) only to be turned back by a white sheriff yelling. "Get off the fucking freeway!" and firing warning shots over their heads. Algiers community activist and Common Ground collective member Malik Rahim estimated that over 40,000 people could have found refuge just over the bridge where high ground prevented flooding.

As it turns out, the decision to refuse entry to the shell-shocked storm survivors fell solely on the shoulders of Police Chief Arthur Lawson Jr. He justifies his lame decision by an even lamer excuse: he wanted to protect Greta property from survivors who were told by other law enforcement agencies there were busses on the Greta side of the bridge - and would likely become enraged once they realized there was no relief there either.

So, let me get this straight. People are suffering, dying, drowning, and in dire need of dry land and compassion, but the Chief won't let them in because he's afraid a few windows might get broken? Jefferson Parish, which includes Greta, is home to David Duke Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Klu Klux Klan. Just ten years ago, two black men died while hog-tied under Greata PD's loving care. Need I say more?

United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) and their lame-ass hurricane katrina action page Don't go to the Gulf Coast, don't take direct action to save the suffering and dying, just donate a few bucks to the AFL or NAACP. But you should still come to DC for the September protests. Absolutely pathetic.


Blogger Boris Epstein said...


Why do you refer to this as ethnic cleansing? Is there any reason to actually see race as being a factor ? I think if anything that was class cleansing.

Did that person you met whose neighbor's house was raided know who was in there?

Thanks for another great report.


8:55 AM  
Blogger Sasil said...

The phenomenon of involved people following media quese on which topics to discuss now is appalling. I'm finding that in the whole "responsibility, blame, cash cost" topics are one common theme- NONE of them are directing aid. From day one, the mass media chose which topics it would cover, and highlight. NOBODY was thinking color, cost, or politics in the days following the hurricane. The mass media decided to shift it's focus, and everyone followed. In a legendary mass response, scores of humanitarian white, wealthy, or Republican, even corporation employees were insulted. The media asked the poor, "Hey, instead of talking about what you need, let's go insult", and in line, everyone is following.

Fellow dignitaries are from all kinds of backgrounds. Were all ages and interests, and so on, an in a time of crisis, we are ALL only human.

Please, stop shifting the focus with media queues. It's an effective weapon to lead the public into ignoring. To HEAR from YOU GUYS- INSIDE of the area- that scores of people are re-building already, so everyone can cxome back home IS relief. People of all walks of ife are WILLING, and ABLE to present private, small group AID. COPnstruiction crews WOULD get to the collective, if they KNEW they were wanted, and welcomed, and what the hell (we) needed to have to live while working. To date, I have not seen ONE blog, nor link, nor any sort of major circulating info that would tell me what our team may need to, drink, to have shelter, and food, once in NOLA. Now ain't that a shame?
HUMANS- Right wing Christians are willing to open homes, hearts and hands. We have, and will continue to, and it's nice, when housing a family to know that the family does not see you as being racist. Humans are willing to WORK FOR FREE< to re-build your homes, and streets, and jobs. And while you sit and gossip, instead of listing resource and situations for labor groups to be aware of, all were finding is race, march, levee...rumor rumor and gossip. Not to mention that we're STILL in need. Oh that media does a trick or two. But, it's NOBODY responsibility to focus an effort but those who would like to make one happen.

As an average west coast volunteer, i cannot finmd ONE PERSON to tell me WHAT- if anything-0 I need to bring or expect on my low income. I have organizational resources, and have all resource i need to arrive and work, and NOTHING to know if i should occupy gas, and space in my ride with a tent, food, water, stoves or what. Because if, on the WEST COAST -Where MOST of the potential, yet "STUCK FOR INFO", kind of volunteers live are NOT informed, we cannot prepare. It takes alot out people so far from home to have to fish, and distill water in a pot while sleeping on thje ground amidst ruins. And yes- this is the typical scenario. Send me vital information and I can work thru my mother, directly with the AFSC.

I need to know- like so many DO-

-Which highways get us to Algiers, and can be driven.
-Where can we easily hike in?
Are there public transit up yet?

-Which areas are safe for occupying? Is there a center for housing a group who'd come in and organize THIS type of info?
Will we need tents, or campers?

-How can volunteers expect to be getting food and water? Should we pack our own? Will someone invest food, water and shelter to a person/group wh's able and WILLING to organize a regular delivery of interstate water/food/housing import?

REALLY- Help out yourself by directing willing people who have NO INFO thru the regular media. In times like this, it's wise to take up the arms of ignoring the media gossip, and start sending out LINES of COMMUNICATION to white rich republicans, and grassroots people of ANY and ALL color alike. This tragedy has been unprecendented in it's outpouring of comp[assion and concern across ALL political, and religious, and ethnic lines. Nobody gives a damn about a few people making racist comments, when we're all too busy *human being to human being, hand-to-hand and party to party* making a way..RESTRUCTURING, so all those disenfranchised folks can get back home and rest awhile.

I mean no insult. I think you gte the idea, Naomi. I'm STILL anxiously SEEKING ~living, water and food possibilities~ along with an entire GROUP of organizers, so we can hope to organize an organizing group to begin re-structuring, setting up temporary evacuee camps for workers, or whatever needs to flow inward so we can return the areas pool of resource.

I can't find ANYTHING coming our of NOLA about what living conditions are to be expected, and what is POSSIBLE(?!), even occupying abandoned areas, if need be, as they can be re-built while LEARNING constrcution, so people can move in in ORDER to re-establish!


send a link or SOMETHING so we can learn. Post it on Craigslist. Post in city halls across America, who USUALLY have a public, non-edited posting board. Any leads and situational information is MUCH needed, and at THIS time, more than ANY gossip.

God bless, and thank you for all of your help, Naomi.

6:55 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

What's pathetic is someone like you who values American lives more than Iraqi ones, and therefore exploits the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina to encourage people not to protest the ongoing atrocity in Iraq as you are doing.

A false choice, as you well know, and a conscious diminishment of the catastrophic consequences of the war and the occupation on the Iraqi people.

And, I say this as someone who doesn't really identify with UFPJ, preferring more radical approaches.

On Friday, September 23rd, I hope to participate in an anti-military recruitment event in Oakland, at the recruitment center to honor people like Kevin Benderman and Caremlo Mejia, people who have refused to serve in the subjugation of the Iraqi people

Sorry, guess that means that means I'm a heartless, self-centered person who doesn't care about the victims of Katrina, at least according to the peculiar though process displayed here.

--Richard Estes

11:17 AM  
Blogger heidi* said...

love to you.

9:53 PM  

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