Category Archives: Hurricanes

New Orleans Danziger Bridge massacre trial begins

An important event that happened in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when 2 people were killed and 6 injured on the Danziger Bridge.  This article examines that event in the context of police brutality.

[This article originally appeared on Liberation News]

Jail racist killer cops!

July 13, 2011

Lance Madison was placed under arrest after police killed his mentally disabled brother, Ronald on the Danziger Bridge.

The federal trial of seven New Orleans police officers began on June 27 and continues as we go to press with this article. The accused officers were involved in the Danziger Bridge massacre, where police opened fire on six unarmed African American survivors of Hurricane Katrina, killing two and maiming the other four.

The original charges against the police for the racist shooting and subsequent cover-up were dismissed in August 2008 , after District Judge Raymond Bigelow accused the prosecution of misconduct with the grand jury.

The two victims killed by the cops were Ronald Madison, a 40-year-old mentally disabled man, and James Brissette, 17. Madison died when he was shot in the back and then stomped repeatedly by NOPD officer Robert Faulcon. Brissette died from shots at the hands of three officers: Robert Gisevius, Kenneth Bowen and Anthony Villavaso. Five of the officers on trial are white.

Danziger Bridge:The horror of police terrorism

Former officer Michael Hunter, who has already pleaded guilty, stated that the officers received a radio call claiming that officers were und er fire and injured in a gun battle on the bridge. After commandeering a Budget rental truck, Hunter and the other officers drove to the bridge, where they found people whose only crime was walking down the street about a week after fleeing their flooded homes. The police opened fire using assault rifles, pistols and a shotgun.

Susan Bartholomew lost her arm in the shooting and had to be sworn in with her left hand. She testified that an officer found her hiding behind a barricade, clinging to another shooting victim. Both women were crying. An officer then leaned over the barricade and opened fire on them with an assault rifle in a sweeping motion.

After Susan Bartholomew was shot, the police demanded she raise her hands. “I couldn’t do it, because my arm was shot off. I raised the only hand I had,” she said softly.

The youngest victim was her 14-year-old son, Leonard Bartholomew IV, who was shot before being kicked and arrested by former officer Kevin Bryan Sr. He was then dropped off at a makeshift police station without money or shoes while his parents were hospitalized. He spent a week and a half living with a sympathetic stranger who blogged about Leonard’s situation until he was reunited with an uncle who had seen the woman’s blog posts.

The civilians on the bridge that day were unarmed. At no point did they engage in any behavior that would indicate they were hostile to the officers or that they possessed a weapon.

Jackie Madison Brown, the sister of Ronald Madison, took the witness stand on July 7. “My brother Rommel called and told me Ronald had been killed,” Brown emotionally recalled under questioning .

Ronald Madison was shot in the back by a hail of gunfire. His disability prevented him from forming full sentences and he had the mental capacity of a 7-year-old. His family had always been protective of him.

Brown’s testimony came after that of former NOPD crime scene technician Tracy Haas. Haas testified that the department waited seven weeks to send a crime scene tech to the Danziger Bridge.

Haas collected 30 spent shell casings in the grassy area next to the Danziger Bridge. She testified that she was not even told a homicide had taken place; however, Sgt. Gerard Dugue did take time to point out a spot in the grass where he said a gun had lain after the shooting. Despite no evidence that any of the victims had guns, Haas took a picture of the spot and labeled it “possible gun location.”

After photographing the area, Haas made her way to the top of the bridge and started to head towards the Friendly Inn Motel, where Ronald Madison was shot and killed. But Haas told the jury that she was stopped by officers: “They told me they had an incident in that area but no evidence was found.”

A racist system through and through

The world looked on with horror at the racist government response in the aftermath of the 2005 Hurricane Katrina that killed 1,836 people—most of whom perished in the floods after the hurricane hit New Orleans on August 29.

The Danziger Bridge massacre took place a week after the hurricane while many survivors were still trapped in New Orleans, which was 80 percent underwater.

Only a system that functions on the most violent and repulsive racism could produce such an event where people struggling to survive in the aftermath of a natural disaster are shot down in the street.

But the masses in Louisiana know all too well that Danziger is part of a system where terrorism against African American people is commonplace, from lynchings after the Reconstruction period to naming the largest prison in the United States, Angola Prison, built on the site of a slave plantation, after the place where the slaves were taken from in Africa.

Five defendants have pleaded guilty to charges of hindering a federal investigation into the shooting by conspiring to cover up facts, lying to federal officials and lying about the actual felony itself, which was an attack on unarmed civilians in which the officers neither identified themselves nor assessed whether the civilians posed a threat.

The defense argues that Katrina was a mitigating factor in the shooting, and that officers were responding to a radio call stating that officers had been fired on at the bridge and were injured, prompting the seven involved to speed to the scene.

One tactic the defense is using is to show the involvement of many others in the NOPD, such as the officer who rewrote Faulcon’s statements. What is not being said, of course, is that the police responded in this racist, violent manner simply because this is the role of the police under capitalism.

As V.I. Lenin explains in State and Revolution,” the role of the police or the special bodies of armed men is to maintain the social order in the face of class antagonisms.

However, officers conspired to cover up the shooting—which began as soon as they drove to the bridge, and before engaging any of the people present—by claiming that guns were found at the scene but were “kicked off the bridge,” according to Hunter, who drove the Budget rental truck to the scene.

A first step for justice would be not only to jail the killer cops involved in the Danziger Bridge shootings, but indict all those who organized the racist terror against the African American survivors in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina. A united, multi-national people’s movement is needed to assure that outcome.

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Filed under Hurricanes, Louisiana, North Carolina, police brutality, Southern United States

FLOODLINES: Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six

[From the author, Jordan Flaherty]

 

Dear Friends,

I wanted to let you know that from now through January 1, you can order Floodlines online from Haymarket Books and get 40% off the cover price, and free shipping for orders over $25.

The link to order online is here:http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/Floodlines-Community-and-Resistance-from-Katrina-to-the-Jena-Six

Below are some reviews of the book:

As the floodwaters rose in New Orleans, Jordan Flaherty began to write, rescuing precious truths about the reality of racism and solidarity in his city that risked being washed away in the tide of formulaic corporate journalism. I can think of no journalist that writes with deeper knowledge or more love about this highly contested part of the United States. With a new flood threatening life on the Gulf Coast – this time made of oil, not water, but powered, as always, by greed and neglect – these remarkable stories of injustice and resistance must be heard.– Naomi Klein, author “The Shock Doctrine”

This is the most important book I’ve read about Katrina and what came after. In the tradition of Howard Zinn this could be called “The People’s History of the Storm.” Jordan Flaherty was there on the front lines. He compellingly documents the racism, poverty, and neglect at the core of this national failure and the brave, generous, grassroots revolutionaries who saved and continue to save a city and a people. It is my favorite kind of book – great storytelling, accurate accounting, a call for engagement and change.-Eve Ensler, playwright, The Vagina Monologues, activist and founder of V-Day

Jordan Flaherty is one of the best and most courageous writers in America today. Beyond his obvious writing skills, what I admire most about Jordan is his dedication to truth-telling, to bringing the real and whole America to the American people. At a time in our nation when there is so much distortion of current events and history, Jordan Flaherty represents the core of who we truly are. And what we are capable of being as citizens of this ever-changing world.-Kevin Powell, Author of Open Letters to America

Jordan Flaherty is an independent journalist for the Hip-Hop generation. As a white anti-imperialist who is committed to social and racial justice, Jordan brings out the voices of the victims and survivors of Hurricane Katrina and the levee breach in New Orleans. This book not only speaks truth to power but is a rallying cry for all of us to take action. With this definitive work, the voices of the grassroots, the communities resisting displacement, finally have a voice.– Rosa Clemente, 2008 Green Party VP Candidate, Hip Hop Activist and Journalist

Jordan Flaherty’s Floodlines takes us back into the path of the storm, evoking the almost unfathomable racism and hatred of the poor that the levee breach exposed, and exposing the continuing complicity with white supremacy of both state and nonprofit recovery efforts and of the white Left. His is an unrelenting narrative that manages to chronicle the multiple system failures after the storm yet uplift by passionately detailing the spirit and history of organizing by grassroots New Orleanians in the years since the storm. With millions of gallons of oil pumping into the ecosystem from the Gulf of Mexico, all of our lives could depend on the knowledge Flaherty’s friends and comrades wrestle from their history.- Mab Segrest, Author, “Memoir of a Race Traitor.”

The usual Katrina narrative tracks government incompetence during the emergency phase and and corporate greed — or inertia — in its aftermath. Jordan Flaherty tells a less well known story, centered on the boisterous infrastructure of left-leaning community groups and non-profits that were fired up by disaster and still struggle to shape New Orleans’ recovery. Flaherty is part of that movement. His vantage brings hands-on intimacy to this chronicle and poignancy to his conclusions.-Jed Horne, author, “Breach of Faith, Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City.”

Here’s the missing news from the Crescent City: folks are fighting back. Indeed, as Flaherty reminds us in this remarkable and noble book, the very soul of New Orleans is struggle. As southern Louisiana again faces a man-made catastrophe, his portraits of activism and hope could not be more timely.Mike Davis, Author, “Planet of Slums”

Jordan describes reality from the ground up. You’ve heard of the eagle’s eye view: this is the earthworm’s. Jordan knows who actually turns over the earth, and he follows them, even when most look away. His book brings us the good news of who’s working for change (and how) but also the reality about the price those people pay for our indifference.-Laura Flanders, Host, Grit TV, Author, “Blue Grit: True Democrats Take Back Politics from the Politicians”

Jordan Flaherty is a journalist who causes revolution with the printed word. This book is a testament to the power of the pen when its in the hand of a freedom fighter and a global thinker. While others are just writing these stories, Jordan Flaherty is living them.- Jesse Muhammad, Final Call Newspaper

Jordan Flaherty’s first calling is as a dedicated community organizer, but he’s also a top-rate investigative journalist. The oppressed communities of New Orleans and larger Louisiana are fortunate to have this talented and compassionate reporter in their midst. This book is invaluable to the United States’ social justice movement that relies on his expertise, honesty, and truth.-Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Author, “Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War”

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Filed under Hurricanes, Louisiana, New Orleans, other announcements, Race, Solidarity, Southern United States, The Left, Uncategorized, United States, workers

The ethics of using FEMA trailers to house cleanup workers

Submitted by Chris Dier

It seems as though thousands of situations are in complete disarray around the Gulf Coast area. We have witnessed corporations hit rock bottom by overtly destroying the environment, murdering workers, killing and burning animals alive, like sea turtles, and unleashing a massive propaganda ploy to distract those from the truth. All these malevolent acts are done for one notion, the notion of profit, at any expense.

As a Gulf Coast resident my entire life, except my time being displaced from Katrina and attending college elsewhere, these troubles are personal to me. Our livelihood is at stake. Today, I read something that sent shivers down my spine. According to the New York Times, FEMA trailers are now being used to house cleanup workers. Ron Mason is the owner of a disaster contracting firm, Alpha 1, and has sold dozens of trailers. According to Mason, “These are perfectly good trailers… look, you know that new car smell? Well, that’s formaldehyde, too. The stuff is in everything. It’s not a big deal.” (1)

Notice he does not use any science or statistics to back up his nonchalant claims. To call him ignorant is an understatement. New car smell? Mason has obviously never lived in FEMA trailer, and I would love to see what sort of car he drives. A new car smells rather nice and refreshing. However, as I recollect my thoughts, I do not remember smelling anything nice in a FEMA trailer. Nine months after Katrina, when we were finally granted our trailers, I can remember going into my mother’s trailer in Meraux, Louisiana, for the first time. My eyes immediately began to water and a pungent smell radiated around the small trailer. At first, I thought it was me. But after a few days, every single person that walked in complained, and every person I knew that was living in a trailer experienced the same symptoms, some even worse. One of my friends told me that they experienced nosebleeds.

We knew something was wrong. I remember sitting in a FEMA trailer wondering where we could go. Our house was gone and everyone we knew was also living in a FEMA trailer. I remember the hopelessness and despair as we inhaled the unknown toxins. Slowly but surely rumors leaked around St. Bernard Parish that the trailers were invested with formaldehyde, which causes eye irritation, odd odors, and nosebleeds. Studies later came out supporting that notion. However, it wasn’t until the majority of trailers were gone that we realized just how dangerous they were.

According to a 2008 study conducted by the The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average level of formaldehyde of the over 500 trailers was 77 ppb, with some trailers measuring over 500 ppb. (2) To put this in perspective, the EPA allows no more than 16 ppb formaldehyde in any building constructed for the agency and average homes usually consists of 10-20 ppb formaldehyde. (3) However, the CDC study is not without its faults as well, as it admits in the study, “Because formaldehyde levels tend to be higher in newly constructed trailers and during warmer weather, levels measured in this study are likely to underrepresent long-term exposures; many of these trailers are approximately 2 years old, and the study was conducted during the winter.” As the EPA and other studies suggest, formaldehyde concentrations are significantly higher after a building is built and extensively worse in the summer.

Formaldehyde, as any toxin will, can cause serious problems, notably to the mucus membrane and the eyes. Any agency purchasing these toxic hotbeds is literally poisoning those that inhabit them. A quick Google search can demonstrate the deadly nature of these trailers. They are not ignorant of the detrimental effects, they are just unethical. If any agency were giving its workers chemically filled harmful drinking water, the world would be outraged. The cleanup workers will be going through enough environmental hazards enough as it is, they should not have to go home to continue to breathe more toxins.

This is a classic example of those in power making others suffer for the benefit of profit. This chronologically redundant pattern has cost the lives of millions throughout history and continues to cause unnecessary death. As of now, my mother still frequents the eye doctor for numerous eye drops and remedies to get her eyes back to normal from the trailer days. Prior to those days, she never had eye problems. This is a big problem. I hope for the best to all those living in the trailers.

1) http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/01/us/01trailers.html?_r=2&hp
2) http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/ehhe/trailerstudy/pdfs/FEMAFinalReport.pdf
3) http://www.naturalnews.com/023202_formaldehyde_health_homes.html

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Filed under Environment, Environmental Justice, Gulf Oil Spill, Gulf States, Hurricanes, Louisiana, Oil, Southern United States, Uncategorized, United States