Hurricane Katrina devastates
New Orleans, LO
Call For Progressive Emergency Supports to the Victims!
[ Independent media Center] Reports
from New Orleans state that "things were so crazy: it was all poor black people
and old white people - the people who couldn't afford to
get out." William Quigley, a
Law Professor at Loyola University has said that "They are estimating that it may
take several days to evacuate these people - water, electricity, food, security
all will be gone by then." Indeed, enforced evacuations began yesterday (Aug.
30) - following a mass exodus from the city in advance of the hurricane - but
initial estimates that expected them to be complete by the evening of August
30th were overly optimistic. And, while outside agencies struggle to help, thousands
remain stuck - including inside hospitals [
1 | 2 ].
[ New Orleans Weather Warning (28th
August) | Democracy Now! reports
(Aug. 30) (Aug. 31) (Sept. 1) (Sept. 2) | Explanation about Hurricanes
(MP3) | Further analysis: 1 , 2 , 3 | Insane looting? - Not at all!
| Genocide in New Orleans
- Genocide americano en New Orleans
- en español ]
Updates on the hurricane disaster at New Orleans IMC, Houston IMC and Indymedia.us
Digital Globe's Satellite Photos of Hurricane Katrina
9/2: Jordan Flaherty - Notes
From Inside New Orleans
National Guard Deployed | Supplies Being Blocked | Orders are: 'Shoot to Kill' | Mayor of New Orleans interview (mp3) | read more
How You Can Help!
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Katrina Blogosphere Digest
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Missing People Database
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Red Cross Missing People Database
Katrina Survivor-Connector List
(Gulf Coast News)
Emergency Housing Information
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Notes From Inside New Orleans
by Jordan Flaherty
Friday, September 2, 2005
I just left New Orleans a couple hours ago. I traveled from the apartment I
was staying in by boat to a helicopter to a refugee camp. If anyone wants to
examine the attitude of federal and state officials towards the victims of hurricane
Katrina, I advise you to visit one of the refugee camps.
In the refugee camp I just left, on the I-10 freeway near Causeway, thousands
of people (at least 90% black and poor) stood and squatted in mud and trash
behind metal barricades, under an unforgiving sun, with heavily armed soldiers
standing guard over them. When a bus would come through, it would stop at a
random spot, state police would open a gap in one of the barricades, and people
would rush for the bus, with no information given about where the bus was going.
Once inside (we were told) evacuees would be told where the bus was taking them
- Baton Rouge, Houston, Arkansas, Dallas, or other locations. I was told that
if you boarded a bus bound for Arkansas (for example), even people with family
and a place to stay in Baton Rouge would not be allowed to get out of the bus
as it passed through Baton Rouge. You had no choice but to go to the shelter
in Arkansas. If you had people willing to come to New Orleans to pick you up,
they could not come within 17 miles of the camp.
I traveled throughout the camp and spoke to Red Cross workers, Salvation Army
workers, National Guard, and state police, and although they were friendly,
no one could give me any details on when buses would arrive, how many, where
they would go to, or any other information. I spoke to the several teams of
journalists nearby, and asked if any of them had been able to get any information
from any federal or state officials on any of these questions, and all of them,
from Australian tv to local Fox affiliates complained of an unorganized, non-communicative,
mess. One cameraman told me "as someone who's been here in this camp for
two days, the only information I can give you is this: get out by nightfall.
You don't want to be here at night." There was also no visible attempt
by any of those running the camp to set up any sort of transparent and consistent
system, for instance a line to get on buses, a way to register contact information
or find family members, special needs services for children and infirm, phone
services, treatment for possible disease exposure, nor even a single trash can.
To understand this tragedy, its important to look at New Orleans itself.
For those who have not lived in New Orleans, you have missed a incredible,
glorious, vital, city. A place with a culture and energy unlike anywhere else
in the world. A 70% African-American city where resistance to white supremecy
has supported a generous, subversive and unique culture of vivid beauty. From
jazz, blues and hiphop, to secondlines, Mardi Gras Indians, Parades, Beads,
Jazz Funerals, and red beans and rice on Monday nights, New Orleans is a place
of art and music and dance and sexuality and liberation unlike anywhere else
in the world.
It is a city of kindness and hospitality, where walking down the block can
take two hours because you stop and talk to someone on every porch, and where
a community pulls together when someone is in need. It is a city of extended
families and social networks filling the gaps left by city, state and federal
goverments that have abdicated their responsibilty for the public welfare. It
is a city where someone you walk past on the street not only asks how you are,
they wait for an answer.
It is also a city of exploitation and segregation and fear. The city of New
Orleans has a population of just over 500,000 and was expecting 300 murders
this year, most of them centered on just a few, overwhelmingly black, neighborhoods.
Police have been quoted as saying that they don't need to search out the perpetrators,
because usually a few days after a shooting, the attacker is shot in revenge.
There is an atmosphere of intense hostility and distrust between much of Black
New Orleans and the N.O. Police Department. In recent months, officers have
been accused of everything from drug running to corruption to theft. In seperate
incidents, two New Orleans police officers were recently charged with rape (while
in uniform), and there have been several high profile police killings of unarmed
youth, including the murder of Jenard Thomas, which has inspired ongoing weekly
protests for several months.
The city has a 40% illiteracy rate, and over 50% of black ninth graders will
not graduate in four years. Louisiana spends on average ,724 per child's education
and ranks 48th in the country for lowest teacher salaries. The equivalent of
more than two classrooms of young people drop out of Louisiana schools every
day and about 50,000 students are absent from school on any given day. Far too
many young black men from New Orleans end up enslaved in Angola Prison, a former
slave plantation where inmates still do manual farm labor, and over 90% of inmates
eventually die in the prison. It is a city where industry has left, and most
remaining jobs are are low-paying, transient, insecure jobs in the service economy.
Race has always been the undercurrent of Louisiana politics. This disaster
is one that was constructed out of racism, neglect and incompetence. Hurricane
Katrina was the inevitable spark igniting the gasoline of cruelty and corruption.
From the neighborhoods left most at risk, to the treatment of the refugees to
the the media portayal of the victims, this disaster is shaped by race.
Louisiana politics is famously corrupt, but with the tragedies of this week
our political leaders have defined a new level of incompetence. As hurricane
Katrina approached, our Governor urged us to "Pray the hurricane down"
to a level two. Trapped in a building two days after the hurricane, we tuned
our battery-operated radio into local radio and tv stations, hoping for vital
news, and were told that our governor had called for a day of prayer. As rumors
and panic began to rule, they was no source of solid dependable information.
Tuesday night, politicians and reporters said the water level would rise another
12 feet - instead it stabilized. Rumors spread like wildfire, and the politicians
and media only made it worse.
While the rich escaped New Orleans, those with nowhere to go and no way to
get there were left behind. Adding salt to the wound, the local and national
media have spent the last week demonizing those left behind. As someone that
loves New Orleans and the people in it, this is the part of this tragedy that
hurts me the most, and it hurts me deeply.
No sane person should classify someone who takes food from indefinitely closed
stores in a desperate, starving city as a "looter," but thats just
what the media did over and over again. Sherrifs and politicians talked of having
troops protect stores instead of perform rescue operations.
Images of New Orleans' hurricane-ravaged population were transformed into black,
out-of-control, criminals. As if taking a stereo from a store that will clearly
be insured against loss is a greater crime than the governmental neglect and
incompetence that did billions of dollars of damage and destroyed a city. This
media focus is a tactic, just as the eighties focus on "welfare queens"
and "super-predators" obscured the simultaneous and much larger crimes
of the Savings and Loan scams and mass layoffs, the hyper-exploited people of
New Orleans are being used as a scapegoat to cover up much larger crimes.
City, state and national politicians are the real criminals here. Since at
least the mid-1800s, its been widely known the danger faced by flooding to New
Orleans. The flood of 1927, which, like this week's events, was more about politics
and racism than any kind of natural disaster, illustrated exactly the danger
faced. Yet government officials have consistently refused to spend the money
to protect this poor, overwhelmingly black, city. While FEMA and others warned
of the urgent impending danger to New Orleans and put forward proposals for
funding to reinforce and protect the city, the Bush administration, in every
year since 2001, has cut or refused to fund New Orleans flood control, and ignored
scientists warnings of increased hurricanes as a result of global warming. And,
as the dangers rose with the floodlines, the lack of coordinated response dramatized
vividly the callous disregard of our elected leaders.
The aftermath from the 1927 flood helped shape the elections of both a US President
and a Governor, and ushered in the southern populist politics of Huey Long.
In the coming months, billions of dollars will likely flood into New Orleans.
This money can either be spent to usher in a "New Deal" for the city,
with public investment, creation of stable union jobs, new schools, cultural
programs and housing restoration, or the city can be "rebuilt and revitalized"
to a shell of its former self, with newer hotels, more casinos, and with chain
stores and theme parks replacing the former neighborhoods, cultural centers
and corner jazz clubs.
Long before Katrina, New Orleans was hit by a hurricane of poverty, racism,
disinvestment, de-industrialization and corruption. Simply the damage from this
pre-Katrina hurricane will take billions to repair.
Now that the money is flowing in, and the world's eyes are focused on Katrina,
its vital that progressive-minded people take this opportunity to fight for
a rebuilding with justice. New Orleans is a special place, and we need to fight
for its rebirth.
Jordan Flaherty is an editor of Left Turn Magazine (www.leftturn.org)
Below are some small, grassroots and New Orleans-based resources, organizations
and institutions that will need your support in the coming months.
Current Info and Resources:
Action for World Liberation Everyday!