Just when you'd forgotten all about the Gretna Crescent City Connection incident, it comes roaring back in this:
A March to Gretna in protest of the actions of the Gretna police in the aftermath of Katrina and in support of displaced African-Americans from New Orleans, who continue to be denied access to participation and opportunity in the reconstruction process is planned for Monday, November 7...
In the aftermath of Katrina, New Orleans authorities directed people to evacuate the city by crossing the Crescent City Connection Bridge which spans the Mississippi River linking New Orleans to the west bank city of Gretna. It's alleged that if you were black or in the company of blacks, armed Gretna police with guard dogs blocked you from evacuating New Orleans. Reportedly, under orders from Gretna Police Chief Arthur S. Lawson, the bridge was sealed off and evacuees denied safe passage when Gretna police officers fired shots in the direction of the crowds.
The March to Gretna, organized by the Hip Hop Caucus and UP (United Progressives) for Democracy, will commence with a rally at the New Orleans Convention Center. It is expected to attract Howard Dean, Chairman, Democratic National Committee; Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, and Congressman John Conyers...
...The Hip Hop Caucus is also calling for a federal investigation of the events by the Justice Department...
Who stands in solidarity with those mentioned above?
The MARCH TO GRETNA is endorsed by Black Leadership Forum, Center for Social Justice, Cities for Progress/Institute for Policy Studies, Clergy & Laity Concerned About Iraq, Code Pink, ColorofChange.org, Common Ground, Community Labor United, Ella Baker Center for Civil Rights, Global Crisis Coalition, Global Exchange, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Healthcare NOW!, Hip Hop Caucus, Independent Progressive Politics Network, League of Pissed Off Voters, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, National Coalition for Black Civic Participation, National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights, New Orleans Network, National Organization for Women, No Fear Coalition, People's Alliance for Community Empowerment, People's Hurricane Relief & Reconstruction Oversight Committee People's Institute for Survival & Beyond, Progressive Democrats of America, Project South, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, National Progressive Youth & Student Organization, Quality Education as a Human Right, Rebuild Green, Rebuilding Louisiana Coalition (NOLA), Rebuild Hope NOW, Saving Our Neighborhoods, Southwest Workers Union, TransAfrica Forum, United for Peace & Justice, United Houma Nation of Louisiana, Urban Heart, World Can't Wait.
A frustrated New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin warned Thursday that it would be in the state's best interest to help the Crescent City jump-start its Hurricane Katrina-riddled economy, saying the impact on the state -- if nothing is done -- will pale in comparison to the layoffs the city recently announced.
"You think 3,000 layoffs in New Orleans is a big deal. Just wait,'' Nagin, his sleeves rolled up, said during an evening meeting with The Advocate's editorial board. "I see a state in crisis.''
The mayor pointed out during the Baton Rouge meeting that New Orleans accounts for 35 percent of the state budget.
"This is not chump change,'' he said. "We're going to have to sell the financial realities of what has happened to this state. Four-day work weeks is not going to do it.''
Nagin, who spent a second straight day Thursday visiting New Orleanians in evacuation shelters, including those in Baton Rouge, Lafayette and other parts of the state, expressed frustration over inaction on the state's part and what he perceives as indifference to the city's post-Katrina plight...
...Nagin, asked if the city is considering filing for bankruptcy, said his administration is in the process of borrowing $50 million from Chase Bank and is looking for a consortium of banks to lend the city another $50 million to $100 million...
...The mayor said his much-criticized proposal last week to create a casino district in downtown New Orleans -- what he referred to Thursday as the "hype and glitter factor,'' would be a way to breath life into the ailing city economy...
...The devastated Lower 9th Ward, what he called "the most vulnerable area of the city,'' could face "mass demolitions'' if the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cannot give the city and residents the "comfort'' that it can be protected from future levee breaks along the Industrial Canal. The Lower 9th contains the highest concentration of blighted property in the city, he said, a legacy of Hurricane Betsy. If the Lower 9th is rebuilt, it likely will contain of mix of raised residences, apartments and condominiums, and industry.
His relationships with Blanco and Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard are less than cozy.
"I've been trying to work with the governor. We have very different styles. I'm really at a loss for what else to do,'' the mayor said.
"There are some really hard feelings right now,'' he said of his feelings toward Broussard. Shortly after Katrina struck, New Orleans residents who had fled to the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center tried to "walk to freedom'' by crossing the Crescent City Connection on foot to make it out of the flooded city, but law enforcement officials in Gretna -- which is in Jefferson Parish -- met them with guns and "attack dogs,'' he said.
"And they want me to talk about regionalism. I'm not feeling very regional right now,'' Nagin said.
His idea to create a charter school system of 20 schools that he, rather than the Orleans Parish School Board, would control was prompted by the extreme pressure that the board is under to open schools on the city's east bank...
Even with 60 percent of the 1,061 identified hurricane deaths being from New Orleans, there are still 4,000 to 7,000 missing New Orleanians...
...In particular, we are concerned that law enforcement officials may have denied minority citizens the ability to cross the Greater New Orleans Bridge to safety in the midst of the flooding, and were negligent in fleeing the Orleans Parish Prison, leaving hundreds of prisoners to possibly drown...
On September 10, 2005, the New York Times reported the firsthand accounts of two emergency medical service (EMS) workers who tried to cross the Greater New Orleans Bridge on September 1, 2005... In a chronicle of their experiences in New Orleans during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the EMS workers at the scene reported that earlier that day, a New Orleans police commander had directed the majority African American group to the Bridge.
Yes, and on who's advice were people sent to the CCC? Let's take a look back at Ray Nagin: "We" told people the Crescent City Connection was open.
According the EMS workers, the officers said that "the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their city." The EMS workers took these statements as "code words for: if you are poor and Black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River, and you are not getting out of New Orleans." It then became clear to the EMS workers that their group had been directed to the Greater New Orleans Bridge only to prevent them from camping out in front of the makeshift police command center.
It's sad, but not unexpected, that Conyers should repeat the obviously biased account of the EMS workers. I'd reprint here the names of the co-signers, but I don't want search engines to think this is the Washington DC Komsomol chapter.
So far, there are at least three instances of conservative-leaning pundits and blogs doing the jobs of the far-left for them:
1. This case, in which almost no one (except, of course, me) has pointed out that the EMSs' obvious agenda makes their tale a bit suspect in its details...
2. Bush's wrong-headed attempt to buy his way out of this crisis rather than do something positive...
3. The effort to downplay the initial reports of violence. Obviously, hacks from both sides want to minimize those reports, leaving those who want the truth to be voices in the wilderness.
"Mayor Nagin in Secret Sitdown with Farrakhan" says that the latter great leader says he met with the former great leader and the two discussed various things, including:
"Mayor Nagin told us there was a 25-foot crater under the levee," Farrakhan explained, before cautioning that the New Orleans Democrat "didn't say there was a bomb. He just said there was a crater."
Farrakhan then added: "I say they blew it [up]."
Citing an Internet report, the Nation of Islam chief explained how the information he got from Nagin led him to conclude that the levees had been deliberately destroyed...
...Though Farrakhan detailed his meeting with the New Orleans mayor at an open forum, the press has kept word of the Farrakhan-Nagin summit under wraps.
In the same address to the Memphis Millions More rally, Farrakhan said Nagin told him that white racists used attack dogs and machine guns to keep blacks from escaping the Superdome.
"Mayor Nagin told us that those poor brothers and sisters that went to the Superdome, these were the ones who made it out of their houses but didn't have any money or means to get out of the city . . . So when the water began to rise around the Superdome, Mayor Nagin told them to get out and start marching over the bridge, the I-10, and get out of here. So they started marching. And when they got over that bridge into the next parish, which was white, they were met with attack dogs and machine guns." [He's refering to the infamous Gretna/Crescent City Connection bridge incident.]
Farrakhan claimed that Mayor Nagin told him warning shots were fired to keep the black evacuees at bay.
"This is Mayor Nagin talking to us," he told the Memphis gathering. "They fired the machine guns over the heads of the crowd. They accepted any white people that were there, but no black people." [Obviously, some white people were not allowed in, such as the socialists.]
Since his alleged meeting with Farrakhan, Mayor Nagin has had no public comment on the Nation of Islam chief's claim that his city's levees were deliberately destroyed.
Let me summarize "After Blocking the Bridge, Gretna Circles the Wagons":
Gretna passed a resolution supporting the decision to block the bridge...
Gretna is 2/3 white, blue-collar, and has had an occasionally troubled relationship with NO...
They helped bus 5000 NOers out, but then the strain got too much...
... After someone set the local mall on fire Aug. 31, Gretna Police Chief Arthur S. Lawson Jr. proposed the blockade...
Gretna is not the only community that views New Orleans with distrust. Authorities in St. Bernard Parish, to the east, stacked cars to seal roads from the Crescent City. But Gretna's decision has become the symbol of the ultimate act of a bad neighbor, gaining notoriety partly from an account in the Socialist Worker newspaper by two San Francisco emergency workers and labor leaders who were in a crowd turned back by Gretna police.
The fact that Gretna's decision might not be mostly based on race seems to elude the Times' crack reporter, as he finds that some Gretnaians are afraid of NO...
Then, the LAT has a little new information:
Like New Orleans, Gretna lost power and water. Town officials pleaded unsuccessfully for help from the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Then they learned that New Orleans officials had told the thousands trapped in that city's downtown, similarly deprived of food and water but also dodging gunfights and rising floodwaters, to cross to Gretna.
This happened a few days before "the incident". Gretna organized buses on Aug. 31 to take evacuees to a food distro center in Metairie. But, people clogged up at the bridge, and things started to spiral out of control.
There were looters and a fire at the mall, and the sheriff decided that was it.
"I said: 'There will be bloodshed on the west bank if this continues,' " Harris recalled. " 'This is not Gretna. I am not going to give up our community!' "
The following morning, Gretna's police chief made his decision: Seal the bridge.
Regarding the gunshots:
Chief Lawson said that he was unaware of any of his officers shooting over the heads of evacuees on the bridge but said that one black officer did fire a shot overhead to quiet an unruly crowd waiting to board a bus.
Overall, I'm going to give the LAT a higher score on this than the NYT, which simply regurgitated the socialist's original screed.
CNN offers their take in "Racism, resources blamed for bridge incident". It doesn't appear to be original reporting so much as a compilation of what was said on various CNN shows including Anderson Cooper and Aaron Brown.
Gretna police chief Arthur Lawson says that Gretna was locked down, and had no resources to take care of thousands of evacuees. He also says he hasn't spoken to the officers involved about this, but CNN also says, "to his knowledge, no officers fired shots near the crowd."
CNN also extensively quotes Lorrie Beth Slonsky and Larry Bradshaw, the paramedics and authors of the most-quoted report.
However, oddly enough!, no form of the word "socialism" appears in the CNN report. Isn't that a bit... odd?
As a semi-reputable news organization, shouldn't CNN at least spend a couple seconds wondering whether the Slonsky/Bradshaw report has been, er, enhanced by their own ideological leanings, whatever they may be?
Here's an example: let's say former presidential candidate Michael Badnarik had written a report like this, but instead of extolling the "working class" he had talked about "state violence" or "statists" or discussed how he had used Atlas Shrugged as a pillow.
In that case, wouldn't CNN question whether he was seeing things through distored glasses?
Oops, I just realized that I made a mistake above: CNN isn't even semi-reputable.
A map that purports to have the two possible evacuation routes is here.
If you were confused over the west bank issue, the term "west bank" refers to the Mississippi as a whole. However, it twists and turns through New Orleans, and in Gretna the west bank is to the east of the east bank. See the map...
This one was posted on Sep. 8 and is called "Surviving hurricane no vacation for tourist":
On Aug. 30, the group tried to rent a bus, but the plan fizzled.
"We heard FEMA confiscated the buses for their own use," he said.
The streets were becoming more dangerous, with looters roaming around. "We could hear gunshots in the distance," [Clarkston MI resident Michael McCarthy] noted.
While other parts of the city were flooded from broken levees, McCarthy's group was not affected.
Nonetheless, on Thursday, Sept. 1, the hotel closed.
"The staff gave us a bottle of water, encouraged us to go to the convention center, and wished us luck" he said.
About 50 hotel guests, including the 12 from Michigan, left together "for safety reasons," McCarthy said.
As they were walking, a police officer advised them not to go to the convention center. Then another officer steered them toward a ferryboat loading dock, across from a police command building.
Hearing hot meals were being served over a bridge, the group was headed that way when they spotted thugs wielding golf clubs.
"The locals said, 'They're letting the white people out,' " McCarthy recalled. "I felt very, very bad."
The group wasn't all white, he reports. "We had people from Holland, Brazil, Turkey, Chile and Australia, and several African-Americans."
As McCarthy's group crossed the bridge, a police officer fired a shot over their heads. The group turned back and stayed overnight on the loading dock. McCarthy stuffed his credit cards in his sock. He learned later there had been a riot of some kind near the bridge.
The situation felt "very primal," he said. If they had to go to the bathroom, the people did so outdoors, he said.
On Friday [Sep. 2], the group was taken by bus to a staging area in Jefferson Parish, about 30 miles outside of New Orleans. From the bus, McCarthy saw "all these poor, desperate people trying to get out of the city," he said.
At the staging area, the group found itself part of a crowd of 15,000.
"I never have seen such filth in my life," McCarthy said of the debris. He avoided the two portable toilets.
But McCarthy noticed a flurry of activity at this location.
"Helicopters were landing every 10 to 20 seconds, taking people out and bringing supplies in," he said.
The bedraggled group was given military meals and water, and at nightfall two buses came to give them rides.
"One of the parishes had heard about our plight and had donated the buses," he said. "People thought we were getting preferential treatment and we may have been."
McCarthy could hear shots being fired as the buses pulled away. "People in the camp had weapons," he said. "We all ducked down, but nobody was hurt."
The group - referred to in the local press as the "stranded tourists" - was taken to Alexandria, La., where they found a hotel around noon on Saturday.
On Sunday at 6 a.m., the group flew out of the state, landing in Detroit around 8:30 a.m.
Looking back, McCarthy stresses the tourists had it "a lot better" than the locals did.
"Those poor people sat in deplorable conditions surrounded by rotting corpses and violent looters."
..."FEMA, New Orleans and the state are all partially to blame. There is enough blame to go around..."
On Friday Sep. 2 at 2:24AM ET, Yahoo posted the AFP story "Police fire warning shots at tourists trying to escape New Orleans". The same or similar is here in "Police fired warning shots, New Orleans tourists tell" with a timestamp of Friday, September 2, 2005. 3:39pm (AEST). It's reposted here, and a shorter version is here.
- discusses the attempt to charter buses. Doesn't give details on who was involved or when that happened.
- 200 tourists were thrown out of their hotel on Thursday Sep. 1 in the morning
- among that group were Japanese, Europeans, and Americans
- the police (?) told them to go to the Superdome or Convention Center
- then, they were told to go to the bridge, and they walked through a "notoriously dangerous inner city neighborhood, got drenched in a thunderstorm"
When they got to the bridge:
"All of a sudden, police cruisers rushed in with sirens blaring," said Patty Murphy, a 57-year-old saleswoman from Massachussetts. "They were shooting over our heads telling us to go back."
- then, they went to the "Canal Street ferry terminal which faces the police command centre".
- the report says that the "tourists spent the night under the concrete pavilion". The report does not tell us what night that was, or which pavilion they're referring to. Hey, thanks for your help.
- the report has the word "mum" being spoken by someone who's apparently an American
Now, a special question for the race-baiters:
1. If the "racist" cops at the bridge stopped black people from leaving, does this report also mean that those cops are racist against Japanese and Europeans?
2. How do you explain this quote:
"We are lost," said Ryo Gotanda from Chiba, Japan as she ate a military ration pack handed out by police.
"We are tourists we don't know how to get around how to protect ourselves, it is like being in a jungle," said Gotanda, who studies in New York.
The worst part, she said, was walking through the tough inner-city neighborhood. "People were staring at us, waving clubs. I was scared, for the first time in my life I thought I would die," said Gotanda.
I have so far seen no report that attempts to find out what really happened at the CCC. While weaving a nice tale - or, in the case of the NYT regurgitating propaganda - is interesting, I'd really like to see someone lay out a timeline and get some incontrovertible details.
In the EMT's report they say a police commander told them there were buses at the bridge:
...the police commander came across the street to address our group. He told us he had a solution: we should walk to the Pontchartrain Expressway and cross the greater New Orleans Bridge where the police had buses lined up to take us out of the City. The crowed cheered and began to move. We called everyone back and explained to the commander that there had been lots of misinformation and wrong information and was he sure that there were buses waiting for us. The commander turned to the crowd and stated emphatically, "I swear to you that the buses are there."
But, ABC's Nightline interviewed Ray Nagin on Sep. 4. A transcript is here or here, or below. Among the race-baiting by Jesse Jackson and ABC, and the first fragile attempts at race-baiting by Nagin, note what Nagin says about sending people to the Crescent City Connection:
JOHN DONOVAN, ABC NEWS: The last thing I want to ask you about is the race question.
So, I'm out at the highway - it was last Thursday - huge number of people stuck in the middle of nowhere. Jesse Jackson comes in, looks at the scene, and says it looks like the scene of a, from a slave ship. And I said, "Reverand Jackson,, the imagery suggests you're saying this is about race." And he didn't answer directly, he said, "Take a look at it, what do you think it's about?"
What's your response to that?
RAY NAGIN, MAYOR OF NEW ORLEANS: (Sighs) You know, I haven't really thought much about the race issue. I will tell you this. I think it's, it could be, but it's a class issue for sure. Because I don't think this type of response would have happened if this was Orange County, California. This response definitely wouldn't have happened if it was Manhattan, New York. And I don't know if it's color or class.
DONOVAN: In some way, you think that New Orleans got second-class treatment.
NAGIN: I can't explain the response. And here's what else I can't explain: We are basically, almost surrounded by water. To the east, the bridge is out, you can't escape. Going west, you can't escape because the bridge is under water. We found one evacuation route, to walk across the Crescent City Connection, on the overpass, down Highway 90 to 310 to I10, to go get relief.
People got restless and there was overcrowding at the convention center. They asked us, "Is there any other option?" We said, "Well, if you want to walk, across the Crescent City Connection, there's buses coming, you may be able to find some relief." They started marching. At the parish line, the county line of Gretna, they were met with attack dogs and police officers with machine guns saying "You have to turn back..."
DONOVAN: Go back.
NAGIN: "...because a looter got in a shopping center and set it afire and we want to protect the property in this area."
DONOVAN: And what does that say to you?
NAGIN: That says that's a bunch of bull. That says that people value their property, and were protecting property, over human life.
And look, I was not suggesting, or suggesting to the people that they walk down into those neighborhoods. All I wanted them to do and I suggested: walk on the Interstate. And we called FEMA and we said "Drop them water and supplies as they march." They weren't gonna go into those doggone neighborhoods. They weren't going to impact those neighborhoods. Those people were looking to escape, and they cut off the last available exit route out of New Orleans.
DONOVAN: And was that race? Was that class?
NAGIN: I don't know. You're going to have to go ask them. But those questions need to be answered. And I'm pissed about it. And I don't know how many people died as a result of that.