Tuesday, September 06, 2005

What is the Truth of Violence in NOLA?

Digby has a great piece comparing the current situation in NOLA to past instances of racial disharmony, the fear of large angry black crowds, especially in Newark, 1967, when police indiscriminately killed black people they feared. At the time, the victims were initially blamed for instigating the violence, which wasn't true.

Hullabaloo
I don't honestly think there is any racist conspiracy at work. There doesn't need to be. All it takes is a reactivation of long held racist beliefs and attitudes --- attitudes that led the president to say that they had "secured" the convention center on Friday night --- which we all saw in that amazing FoxNews footage actually meant that the desperate survivors had been locked inside the sweltering hellhole. It was the attitude that had tourists staying at the Hyatt hotel being given special dispensation to go to the head of the lines at the Superdome. It was the attitude that made my racist companions disgusted by the "animals" at the convention center because they were living in filth fail to grasp that these people had been expecting to be rescued at any moment for more than four days.

It's that attitude that led these people to talk endlessly about rape with lurid imagery and breathless, barely contained excitement. This too is part of the American lizard brain.


Now we hear of the "animals" in NOLA, who were raping children in the Superdome and murdering each other. But are there any credible reports of rape or murder there? The UK's Guardian reports none of the stories have yet been substantiated by authorities, and suggest many may turn out to be apocryphal, and reflect the kind of fear of large groups of blacks that Digby writes of.

Reports of the complete degradation and violent criminals running rampant in the Superdome suggested a crisis that both hastened the relief effort and demonised those who were stranded.

By the end of last week the media in Baton Rouge reported that evacuees from New Orleans were carjacking and that guns and knives were being seized in local shelters where riots were erupting.

The local mayor responded accordingly.

"We do not want to inherit the looting and all the other foolishness that went on in New Orleans," Kip Holden was told the Baton Rouge Advocate. "We do not want to inherit that breed that seeks to prey on other people."

The trouble, wrote Howard Witt of the Chicago Tribune is that "scarcely any of it was true - the police confiscated a single knife from a refugee in one Baton Rouge shelter".

"There were no riots in Baton Rouge. There were no armed hordes."

Similarly when the first convoy of national guardsmen went into New Orleans approached the convention centre they were ordered to "lock and load".

But when they arrived they were confronted not by armed mobs but a nurse wearing a T-shirt that read "I love New Orleans".

"She ran down a broken escalator, then held her hands in the air when she saw the guns," wrote the LA Times.

"We have sick kids up here!" she shouted.

"We have dehydrated kids! One kid with sickle cell!"


Bill Weinberg offers a good summation of "Urban Combat" in NOLA.

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