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The People of the Dome
by Mitchel Cohen Sunday, Sep. 04, 2005 at 5:06 PM

Firsthand account from the French Quarter of life in the disaster zone.

My friend Les Evenchick, an independent Green who lives in the French Quarter of New Orleans in a 3-story walkup, reports that 90 percent of the so-called looters are simply grabbing water, food, diapers and medicines, because the federal and state officials have refused to provide these basic necessities.

Les says that "it's only because of the looters that non-looters -- old people, sick people, small children -- are able to survive."

Those people who stole televisions and large non-emergency items have been SELLING THEM, Les reports (having witnessed several of these "exchanges") so that they could get enough money together to leave the area.

Think about it:

- People were told to leave, but all the bus stations had closed down the night before and the personnel sent packing.

- Many people couldn't afford tickets anyway.

- Many people are stranded, and others are refusing to leave their homes, pets, etc. They don't have cars.

You want people to stop looting? Provide the means for them to eat, and to leave the area.

Some tourists in the Monteleone Hotel paid $25,000 for 10 buses. The buses were sent (I guess there were many buses available, if you paid the price!) but the military confiscated them (!) and would not let the people leave. Instead, the military ordered the tourists to the now-infamous Convention Center.

HOW SIMPLE it would have been for the State and/or US government to have provided buses for people BEFORE the hurricane hit, and throughout this week. Even evacuating 100,000 people trapped there -- that's 3,000 buses, less than come into Washington D.C. for some of the giant antiwar demonstrations there. Even at $2,500 a pop -- highway robbery -- that would only be a total of $7.5 million for transporting all of those who did not have the means to leave.

Instead, look at the human and economic cost of not doing that!

So why didn't they do that?

Why have food and water been BLOCKED from reaching tens of thousands of poor people?

On Thursday, the government used the excuse that there were some very scattered gunshots (two or three instances only) -- around 1/50th of the number of gunshots that occur in New York City on an average day -- to shut down voluntary rescue operations and to scrounge for 5,000 National Guard troops fully armed, with "shoot to kill" orders -- at a huge economic cost.

They even refused to allow voluntary workers who had rescued over 1,000 people in boats over the previous days to continue on Thursday, using the several gunshots (and who knows WHO shot off those rounds?) to say "It's too dangerous". The volunteers wanted to continue their rescue operations and had to be "convinced" at gunpoint to "cease and desist."

There is something sinister going down -- it's not simply incompetence or negligence.

How could FEMA and Homeland Security not have something so basic as bottled drinking water in the SuperDome, which was long a part of the hurricane plan? One police officer in charge of his 120-person unit said yesterday that his squad was provided with only 70 small bottles of water.

Last year, New Orleans residents -- the only area in the entire state that voted in huge numbers against the candidacy of George Bush -- also fought off attempts to privatize the drinking water supply.

One of the first acts of Governor Kathleen Blanco (a Democrat, by the way) during this crisis was to TURN OFF the drinking water, to force people to evacuate. There was no health reason to turn it off, as the water is drawn into a separate system from the Mississippi River, not the polluted lake, and purified through self-powered purification plants separate from the main electric grid. If necessary, people could have been told to boil their water -- strangely, the municipal natural gas used in stoves was still functioning properly as of Thursday night!

There are thousands of New Orleans residents who are refusing to evacuate because they don't want to leave their pets, their homes, or who have no money to do so nor place to go. The government -- which COULD HAVE and SHOULD HAVE provided water and food to residents of New Orleans -- has NOT done so INTENTIONALLY to force people to evacuate by starving them out. This is a crime of the gravest sort.

We need to understand that the capability has been there from the start to DRIVE water and food right up to the convention center, as those roads have been clear -- it's how the National Guard drove into the city.

Let me say this again: The government is intentionally not allowing food or water in.

This is for real.

MSNBC interviewed dozens of people who had gotten out. Every single one of them was WHITE.

The people who are poor are finally leaving the horrendous conditions in the SuperDome and are being bussed to the AstroDome in Houston.

Call them "People of the Dome."

If people open fire on the National Guard coming to remove them against their will, will New Orleans become the first battle in the new American revolution?

Mitchel Cohen
Brooklyn Greens / Green Party of NY

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'This is criminal': Malik Rahim reports from New Orleans
by Malik Rahim (repost) Sunday, Sep. 04, 2005 at 8:02 PM

Malik Rahim, a veteran of the Black Panther Party in New Orleans, for decades an organizer of public housing tenants both there and in San Francisco and a recent Green Party candidate for New Orleans City Council, lives in the Algiers neighborhood, the only part of New Orleans that is not flooded. They have no power, but the water is still good and the phones work. Their neighborhood could be sheltering and feeding at least 40,000 refugees, he says, but they are allowed to help no one. What he describes is nothing less than deliberate genocide against Black and poor people. - Ed.

New Orleans, Sept. 1, 2005 - It's criminal. From what you're hearing, the people trapped in New Orleans are nothing but looters. We're told we should be more "neighborly." But nobody talked about being neighborly until after the people who could afford to leave left.

If you ain't got no money in America, you're on your own. People were told to go to the Superdome, but they have no food, no water there. And before they could get in, people had to stand in line for 4-5 hours in the rain because everybody was being searched one by one at the entrance.

I can understand the chaos that happened after the tsunami, because they had no warning, but here there was plenty of warning. In the three days before the hurricane hit, we knew it was coming and everyone could have been evacuated.

We have Amtrak here that could have carried everybody out of town. There were enough school buses that could have evacuated 20,000 people easily, but they just let them be flooded. My son watched 40 buses go underwater - they just wouldn't move them, afraid they'd be stolen.

People who could afford to leave were so afraid someone would steal what they own that they just let it all be flooded. They could have let a family without a vehicle borrow their extra car, but instead they left it behind to be destroyed.

There are gangs of white vigilantes near here riding around in pickup trucks, all of them armed, and any young Black they see who they figure doesn't belong in their community, they shoot him. I tell them, "Stop! You're going to start a riot."

When you see all the poor people with no place to go, feeling alone and helpless and angry, I say this is a consequence of HOPE VI. New Orleans took all the HUD money it could get to tear down public housing, and families and neighbors who'd relied on each other for generations were uprooted and torn apart.

Most of the people who are going through this now had already lost touch with the only community they'd ever known. Their community was torn down and they were scattered. They'd already lost their real homes, the only place where they knew everybody, and now the places they've been staying are destroyed.

But nobody cares. They're just lawless looters ... dangerous.

The hurricane hit at the end of the month, the time when poor people are most vulnerable. Food stamps don't buy enough but for about three weeks of the month, and by the end of the month everyone runs out. Now they have no way to get their food stamps or any money, so they just have to take what they can to survive.

Many people are getting sick and very weak. From the toxic water that people are walking through, little scratches and sores are turning into major wounds.

People whose homes and families were not destroyed went into the city right away with boats to bring the survivors out, but law enforcement told them they weren't needed. They are willing and able to rescue thousands, but they're not allowed to.

Every day countless volunteers are trying to help, but they're turned back. Almost all the rescue that's been done has been done by volunteers anyway.

My son and his family - his wife and kids, ages 1, 5 and 8 - were flooded out of their home when the levee broke. They had to swim out until they found an abandoned building with two rooms above water level.

There were 21 people in those two rooms for a day and a half. A guy in a boat who just said "I'm going to help regardless" rescued them and took them to Highway I-10 and dropped them there.

They sat on the freeway for about three hours, because someone said they'd be rescued and taken to the Superdome. Finally they just started walking, had to walk six and a half miles.

When they got to the Superdome, my son wasn't allowed in - I don't know why - so his wife and kids wouldn't go in. They kept walking, and they happened to run across a guy with a tow truck that they knew, and he gave them his own personal truck.

When they got here, they had no gas, so I had to punch a hole in my gas tank to give them some gas, and now I'm trapped. I'm getting around by bicycle.

People from Placquemine Parish were rescued on a ferry and dropped off on a dock near here. All day they were sitting on the dock in the hot sun with no food, no water. Many were in a daze; they've lost everything.

They were all sitting there surrounded by armed guards. We asked the guards could we bring them water and food. My mother and all the other church ladies were cooking for them, and we have plenty of good water.

But the guards said, "No. If you don't have enough water and food for everybody, you can't give anything." Finally the people were hauled off on school buses from other parishes.

You know Robert King Wilkerson (the only one of the Angola 3 political prisoners who's been released). He's been back in New Orleans working hard, organizing, helping people. Now nobody knows where he is. His house was destroyed. Knowing him, I think he's out trying to save lives, but I'm worried.

The people who could help are being shipped out. People who want to stay, who have the skills to save lives and rebuild are being forced to go to Houston.

It's not like New Orleans was caught off guard. This could have been prevented.

There's military right here in New Orleans, but for three days they weren't even mobilized. You'd think this was a Third World country.

I'm in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans, the only part that isn't flooded. The water is good. Our parks and schools could easily hold 40,000 people, and they're not using any of it.

This is criminal. These people are dying for no other reason than the lack of organization.

Everything is needed, but we're still too disorganized. I'm asking people to go ahead and gather donations and relief supplies but to hold on to them for a few days until we have a way to put them to good use.

I'm challenging my party, the Green Party, to come down here and help us just as soon as things are a little more organized. The Republicans and Democrats didn't do anything to prevent this or plan for it and don't seem to care if everyone dies.

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Condolences from Brazil
by Brazilian Monday, Sep. 05, 2005 at 10:37 AM

Condolences from Brazil

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disgraceful leadership
by Carolyn Monday, Sep. 05, 2005 at 3:44 PM

Thank you for shedding light on what is really going on in New Orleans. It is so devastating and the media is a joke in this country. They sugar coat everything and tell you what they want you to hear, whether is be true or not. It's embarrassing and depressing that a country so powerful can be so stupid and disorganized.

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Greyhound
by Fogtown Wednesday, Sep. 07, 2005 at 10:26 AM

Yep greyhound shut down saturday morning with lots of folks in line for tickets, 36 hours before the storm hit.

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