Tag Archives: Katrina

Hurricane Katrina: Workers outraged at class-biased and racist gov’t response 

September 19, 2005


NEW ORLEANS, September 5—Thousands of working people headed back today to neighborhoods on the outskirts of this city. As vehicles came to a halt on the hot, traffic-jammed highway, with only several hours remaining to pick up belongings before curfew, people began talking to one another. Many of the conversations we were part of were marked by outrage at the response of federal, state, and local governments and capitalist politicians to the social disaster that has ensued since Hurricane Katrina.

Military convoys snaked through the city, filling the highways along with National Guard troops and city and state cops. Helicopters hummed overhead.

Ten minutes into the city limits, just off Magazine Street, with police and army vehicles passing regularly, we met a group of residents who said they had yet to receive food or water from any officials or aid agencies.

“We have been here for seven days,” Cleveland Frenell Jr. said. “I got a cut on my hand. I can’t get any medical help. Yesterday was the first day we got anything. What we got was water and toilet paper, and it was not even from the government. It was from some individual. Everybody talks about what they are going to do, and nobody has done anything.” Asked what the military and police do, Frenell shouted, “Nothing! They do nothing! They ride around.”

Frenell and his neighbors had cooked beans and sausage they obtained shortly after the storm, when residents opened some local stores to allow people to get food. They shared their meal, and we gave them some water, an item in short supply.

‘Cops pulled guns on us’ 
“Two days ago the cops pulled guns on us,” said another member of the group, Joseph Webber, 61, a self-employed handyman. “We were riding a bicycle back from the Convention Center where we had gotten water. They demanded to know where we lived, to see our IDs, what we were doing. They could see I had the water on top of the bicycle.” The group stays together during the day and doesn’t venture out at night.

“The governor gave the police strict orders that give them the right to use any kinds of means,” Webber said. “They could shoot you and say whatever they want. The police treat you like nothing. That’s why we stick together.”

On September 6 the mayor of New Orleans announced a mandatory evacuation order for all remaining residents. An estimated 10,000 people are to be moved out, forcibly if necessary, according to city officials.

In an area with condominiums that fared well, we spoke with Robert LeBlanc, the manager of the Park VII complex. “Now they’re in here like buzzards,” he said, referring to the troops. “But it’s too late. They preached, ‘Be prepared, know where you’re going, what you’re going to do’—but they weren’t prepared.”

It’s not the hurricane “that got me pissed, it’s the way the government acted,” LeBlanc said. There was no serious effort to evacuate or help people in the aftermath. He described a body left laying near Magazine and Jackson Streets. Someone finally built a brick barrier around it after a few days. It was still there as we drove by, though now guarded by a soldier. “It could’ve been one of us,” LeBlanc said.

Riding into the city, we had joined residents of Jefferson Parish in a line of cars waiting to be allowed back into the area to visit their homes and gather needed items. Residents were instructed to be out of the city by the 6:00 p.m. curfew enforced by the cops. Nicole Flowers, a 34-year-old restaurant and retail worker, led us to her neighborhood of Harvey.

“People get displaced from their families,” Flowers said. “There is no effort whatsoever made to keep families together. They give you no information about where to go to get help, cash checks, or get food and supplies. Or, if they do tell you where to go to get assistance, you get there and they don’t know anything about it.”

Bernard Johnson, 45, a catering worker, stayed in his nearby apartment complex through the hurricane. He is not sure where his family is or whether they are together. “I’ve been sleeping outside,” Johnson said. “We can’t live inside because the roof caved in and the carpet and furniture are wet.” He hadn’t seen any buses come through the area to pick people up.

When residents asked for help, he said, cops on patrol just gave them the number of the parish president’s emergency line. Many have no working phones, and whenever they borrow someone’s cell phone they get a busy signal.

“My main concern is that we need ice,” said Hazel Thomas, 32. A friend “has seizures and if she gets overheated she needs ice, and all we have is warm bottles of water.”

Like many other working people here, Thomas has taken initiatives—sometimes dangerous ones—to save others, such as moving two elderly women to a safer building when their roof caved in during the hurricane. “There’s over 100 people here who need to get out,” said Thomas.

The Red Cross came by on September 4 and gave out boxes with 12 army-issued MRE food packets and some water. “They said they’d come back to pick people up today,” Thomas said, “but we haven’t seen them.”

What millions of people in the region are now facing is the battle to get jobs, decent housing, health care, and basic necessities from clothing to furniture. Based on recent experience, many working people here are recognizing that will take a fight.


Post Hurricane Katrina Shelters: Shoddy Conditions for Evacuees 

September 26, 2005 

MOBILE, Alabama—In the second week since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, people forced to live in tents or in their cars are still trying to get into shelters. Yet given the deplorable conditions in these facilities, many of those already in them are trying to get out.

According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, as of September 7, 182,000 people have made their way to 559 shelters across the United States.

There are between 15,000 and 25,000 evacuees in Alabama, the governor’s office reports. Some have found housing or shelters, but many are stuck in cars or sleeping on park benches.

At Our Savior Lutheran Church here, which has been turned into a Red Cross shelter, signs are posted on the walls to call the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for assistance. But “we have no access to phones here,” commented Robert Sneed, 43, a laid-off shipyard worker.

Glenda Cate, a nurse practitioner from North Carolina, is volunteering at the shelter for three weeks. She reported that FEMA officials came by two days earlier and said they would put two phone lines in, but have yet to return. “I let people use my cell after 9:00 p.m., when I have free minutes,” she said.

A FEMA notice offering cash relief was put up on the wall today for the first time. This facility is in a better-off area in Mobile. It houses working people from various nationalities. At a shelter in the Black community, volunteer Denise Ervy, who is a retired school teacher, said no FEMA notice on vouchers had been posted.

Conditions at Our Savior Lutheran contrast sharply with a private special needs shelter organized by the First Baptist Church in Semmes for Fresenius Medical Care patients needing dialysis. Pastor Dave Abbott told the Militant that on the initiative of one of the church members, the sizable church with many rooms and facilities is now being put to use.

While making clear he was not seeking to criticize the government or any of the relief agencies, he explained to reporters that they were getting little help from the Red Cross or FEMA. “If you call and ask for something, it could be four to five days before you get it,” he said.

Patients in this shelter were brought in from hospitals throughout the Gulf Coast decimated by the hurricane. Many hospitals in affected areas have been partially or totally shut down.

In the New Orleans area alone, 24 of 27 hospitals have been closed and fully evacuated, Bloomberg News reports. Patients have been sent to hospitals across the region.

The bodies of more than 40 mostly elderly patients were located in the flooded-out Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans. Hospital officials claim they don’t know exactly how they died. At the inundated St. Rita’s Nursing Home just east of the city, 34 corpses were found. The owners were charged September 13 with negligent homicide.

Limitations of “the vote”

By: Brian Taylor

Go in the box. Vote in a box. Choices in a box.

Boxed in and locked. Future been blocked.

Lines have been chalked, bullshit been talked.

Promises been balked, Katrina been stopped.

FEMA done been stopped, aid done been stopped.

Homes are still lost. Lives are still rocked.

Cops, they still pop; then they still walk.

Even when its caught, on the internet.

How sick can it get? You aint seen shit yet.

Wait til the stocks drop….

In the summer heat muthafuckers dying.

While the wealthy eat, muthafuckers dying .

In the winter cold, muthafuckers dying.

While debt is sold, muthafuckers dying.

In heavy rains, muthafuckers dying.

While they destroy grain, muthafuckers dying.

From curable diseases, muthafuckers dying.

While they do what they pleases, muthafuckers dying.

We don’t matter, Free don’t matter to top hatters

on top of ladders. Our clothes tattered, our people scattered,

our spirits battered, our brains splattered, our dreams shattered,

our team shattered, all this data’s, got me madder.

Wish our movement was fatter than Kongs bladder.

We gotta get pissed, demand and insist.

Read what we’ve missed. See what we’ve missed.

Raise a fist…and resist.

Drown our fears, with metaphorical spears

The place is where? Here! The time is when?

The time has been…

now for some time,

time for some rhyme, to break the mold,

break the hold

the system has

on our minds,

and break it cold

and shake the old decripid form

and shake away its social norms.

Cause ignorance, they profess to be bliss,

but so much less than freedom is.

Wage raise fights, Wage slave plights,

Black rights battles, immigration fights,

Same page fights, whole nation rattles…

Vote for Bernie Sanders? vote for Hillary?

Man you killing me with that nonsense

Where’s our memory? Are you kidding me

Do their bidding B? They ain’t feeling me

Though they cleverly serenade us verbally

And fraudulently claim their deep concern for me

Ain’t NO power like a million feet

on the concrete,

We don’t need a seat

at your table, we taken the street

We taken the sheets off heads and burnin em

And when the time comes, we taken the heat

Cause we tired of taken crumbs while small sums get meat

Our slums replete with abject poverty

We need sovereignty, not electoral novelty

This is from depths of my pectoral cavity

Weighed down by the gravity of ancestral captivity

Walkin head high with built in humility

All I ask is that we use our ability

To change thangs for real, and dispense with futilities

Like capitalist parties and social dem similies

They dress up like sheep, but they wolf-ass enemies