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The Longest Now

Directing rage locally : “There will be no Superdomes in our city”
Wednesday September 14th 2005, 11:23 pm
Filed under: indescribable

Most of the people writing about New Orleans and other destroyed cities are confused about where to direct their purest, most blazing anger. 

It shouldn’t be directed at the federal officials or other
meta-organizers who failed
to organize or prepare in time — although they were terribly
negligent, each relying on other parts of a broken system, and have
been wasting funds and abusing their responsibilities for years. 
They deserve scorn and shiny, new jobs in a sector that can tolerate
incompetence.  And their large, organized systems [FEMA, more recently parts of Homeland Security]
can be blamed for the hundreds of billions of dollars of damage and
other invaluable losses of private, personal historicity, which were
“5-year preventable”, even “1-year preventable”.  But these
systems did not lead to the immediate deaths and serious illnesses in
the city, nor to the massive damage and losses which were preventable days after the storm hit.  

No, the proper targets for this most pressing rage are local officials;
police and government officials and other forces in NO and surrounding
cities; regional and state planners with access to the closest sources
of help (and with supporters and constituents comprising the owners of
local trucking, shipping, and security outfits) who failed to do what
was necessary to save their immediate neighbors. Even, saints preserve us, the office of Mayor Nagin was extensively complicit in this catastrophe. 

Hopefully you’ve already read the remarkable essay by Larry Bradshaw and Lorrie Slonsky,
EMS workers from San Francisco who were in town for a conference, on
their adventures trying to escape the city on foot.  Below is a
streamlined excerpt, to illustrate my point.

[Day 2 : 500 people left in the hotels in the French Quarter] 
We were a mix of foreign tourists, conference attendees like ourselves,
and locals… We were repeatedly told that all sorts of resources
including the National Guard and scores of buses were pouring in to the

We pooled our money and came up with $25,000 to have ten buses come and
take us out of the City.  Those who did not have [were] subsidized
by those who did… The buses never arrived. We later learned [they had been] commandeered by the

By day 4, our hotels had run
out of fuel and water… [the hotel] told us to report to the convention
center to wait for more buses.   

The [National] Guards told us we would not be allowed into the
Superdome… and that the police were not allowing anyone else in[to
the Convention Center]…  we asked, “If we can’t go to the only 2 shelters in the City, what was our alternative?” The guards told us that that was our problem, and no they did not have extra water to give to us.

[Now down to a group of 200]
We walked to the police command center at Harrah’s on Canal Street…
the police commander [told us to] cross the [Crescent City Connection bridge]
where the police had buses lined up to take us out of the City. 
The commander turned to the crowd and stated emphatically, “
I swear to you that the buses are there.

[Group of unknown size, grows while approaching the bridge]
We organized ourselves…  As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs
formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close
enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads… The
sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. 

We questioned why we couldn’t cross the bridge anyway [as] there was little traffic on the 6-lane highw ay.  They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City

All day long, we saw other families [attempt to cross the bridge]…
only to be turned away.  Thousands… [A]s dusk set in, a Gretna
Sheriff showed up, jumped out of his patrol vehicle… A helicopter
arrived and used the wind from its
blades to blow away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the sheriff
loaded up his truck with our food and water.      read the entire essay

Larry Bradshaw
is chief shop steward of the Paramedic Chapter, SEIU Local 790;  Lorrie Beth
is a steward of the same chapter.  As Counterpunch notes, both also write for Socialist Worker.
+ See their Hardball interview (September 13), with video.
+ The above report was apparently confirmed by Bostonian Cathey Golden and her son, who were part of the group.

added.  It is one
thing to do wrong by people a thousand miles and two layers of
bureaucracy away; quite another to do wrong by people in your own
district, or even the next, who are suffering before your eyes. 
There are a select few hundred people who were criminally negligent during this disaster, and most lived within a few hundred miles of its center.

Read the entire essay,
which is rather more severe than my quotes above. 

UPDATE:  I note that Gretna police chief Arthur Lawson confirmed
that his officers, “along with those from the Jefferson Parish
Sheriff’s Office and the Crescent City Connection Police,” sealed off
the bridge. 

Directing rage locally : “There will be no Superdomes in our city” …

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