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come to new orleans in december to stop ethnic cleansing by bulldozer
by mike howells Tuesday, Dec. 04, 2007 at 1:35 AM 504-587-0080 1031 Barracks St. #2 NOLA, 70116

The one thing that can stop HUD's plan to demolish public housing in New Orleans beginning in mid-December is mass, determined resistance in the streets of the city to defend this precious source of affordable housing. This article addresses why the progressive community in the United States, including anti-racists, need to actively support the fight against HUD's demolition plan. The outcome of this battle will have a profound impact on the prospects for the return of the 150,000 N.O. Katrina Survivors still in exile.

By Mike Howells*

The November announcement by HUD that the planned demolition of more than 5,000 desperately needed units of public housing in storm devastated New Orleans is scheduled to begin in mid-December presents the progressive community of the United States with a moment of truth. Is the opposition of the progressive community in this country to the abomination of ethnic cleansing something more than words? There can be no serious doubt that HUD’s “redevelopment plan” for post-Katrina public housing in New Orleans, i.e. demolish it, would, in practice, result in the permanent exile of tens of thousands of working class, African-Americans from the Crescent City. And having successfully bottled up judicial and legislative challenges to its “redevelopment” plan for New Orleans public housing, HUD and its ruling class partners in ethnic cleansing are moving in for the kill. The last, best hope to keep Alfonso Jackson’s bulldozers at bay in New Orleans is mass resistance in the streets of the city. Drawing the progressive community of the United States en masse into the streets of the Crescent City to confront HUD’s bulldozers of ethnic cleansing is key to winning a huge victory against racism and classism.

Expecting the public housing residents of New Orleans and local allies alone to stop HUD’s bulldozers is expecting too much. The local forces struggling to reopen the city’s public housing are battle weary survivors of Hurricane Katrina. Since the storm these Katrina Survivors, like many other Katrina Survivors, have endured trauma upon trauma. Furthermore, the Bush Administration and powerful business interests have succeeded, after more than two years of plotting and maneuvering, in finally neutralizing judicial and legislative opposition to the Administration’s public housing land grab. Now the playing field in New Orleans pits the government/corporate ethnic cleansing machine of Bush and company against whomever the city’s public housing movement is able to marshal on the streets.

The resistance of the New Orleans public housing movement has managed to stave off the post-Katrina push to destroy local public housing for more than two years. However, recent developments in federal court and Congress noted above effectively dictate that the fate of the city’s public housing will be settled in the streets of the storm devastated city. To stop HUD’s bulldozers and to stymie the government/corporate ethnic cleansing machine thousands of determined anti-racists and progressives will be needed on the streets of New Orleans in December. For this to happen anti-racists and friends of the working class from all walks of life and all corners of the county will have to come to New Orleans in December.

There comes a time when a group that says it stands for something in general must do something in particular in order to demonstrate to itself and others that it means anything at all. The progressive community in America is united in saying its against racism. The battle to save public housing in New Orleans gives anti-racists a historic opportunity to strike a major blow against the ethnic cleansing now underway on the Gulf Coast. The refusal of the Bush Administration to reopen public housing in Louisiana’s largest city is the lynchpin of the artificially manufactured shortage of now plaguing the Crescent City. More than anything else, it is this man made shortage of affordable housing that blocks the return of 150,000 African-American Katrina Survivors to New Orleans. In itself the reopening of the 5,000+ shuttered units of public housing would help to significantly alleviate this dire shortage of affordable housing. What’s more is that the reopening of public housing would exert a downward pressure on private rents that would open up yet more local housing to Katrina Survivors. Access to this otherwise affordable housing is being denied at present because, so far, its been politically expedient for the Bush Administration to keep public housing closed.

The purpose of the December mobilization to stop the demolition of New Orleans public housing is to dramatically raise the political cost to the Bush Administration and the U.S. Senate for supporting the attack on affordable housing here. Mass, determined resistance in the streets of the city to the demolition of the area’s public housing is the key to dramatically raising the political cost of denying Katrina Survivors the affordable housing they need to return home. The time is now for thousands of anti-racists to come to New Orleans and to do what must be done to strike a decisive blow against the scheme to destroy affordable housing needed by Katrina Survivors.

New Orleans’ public housing residents and local allies have issued a national call to action urging people from around the country to come to the Crescent City in December to provide the critical mass needed to stop HUD’s bulldozers. This national call to action was issued in response to the announcement by HUD officials that the demolition of the four targeted public housing developments is scheduled to begin on December 15, 2007. The Coalition to the Stop the Demolition is issuing the national call. The Coalition is a collection of local groups and individuals that have championed the reopening of New Orleans public housing for more than two years. The call asks friends of public housing and opponents of racism everywhere to start coming to New Orleans on December 10th. Supporters who cannot make it to New Orleans by December 10th but plan to come to town to help defend public housing from the bulldozers should come as soon as possible. Thousands of people determined to stop ethnic cleansing are needed in New Orleans to do just that. Justice demands action!

Contact information:

For additional information , please contact the Stop the Demolition Coalition at , or call us at 504-458-3494.

*Mike Howells is a Katrina Survivor and a member of the New Orleans based C3/Hands Off Iberville grass roots organization. He has been active in New Orleans in the local social justice movement since 1983.


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