Friday, December 09, 2005

Remember Katrina? That bitch is still lying to all of us, and the "news" about the "Causeway Concentration Camp" isn't on the news...

[Ed note: This is just a sample of some very important House hearings on the issue of racism in the reactions to Hurricane Katrina. The testimonials are powerful, the evidence is undeniable, and the police state is first marching through New Orleans over the bodies and corpses of African-Americans as we speak. They haven't recovered, they aren't being given the help they were promised, and the victims are still suffering. I strongly recommend checking out Democracy Now! for a half-hour to get an update: if this was made a big deal in the mainstream media then we'd see it as a big deal, because in fact, it is...]


Friday, December 9th, 2005

New Orleans Evacuees and Activists Testify at Explosive House Hearing on the Role of Race and Class in Government's Response to Hurricane Katrina

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Three months after Hurricane Katrina ripped through the southern coast of the United States, decimating communities in Mississippi and Louisiana, we play excerpts of an explosive congressional hearing focusing on race and the government's response to the disaster. [includes rush transcript] It has been three months since Hurricane Katrina ripped through the southern coast of the United States, decimating communities in Mississippi and Louisiana.
After the initial slow government response to the disaster, President Bush flew to the region and promised the government will "do what it takes, stay as long as it takes, to help our citizens rebuild their communities and their lives." Well that promise is feeling increasingly hollow to many people.

Today is the start of the Survivors General Assembly and Strategy Conference in Jackson, Mississippi. Katrina survivors are gathering at this conference and demanding the right to return to their homes and to take part in the reconstruction process. They are also calling for reparations for what they say is the government's criminal indifference and malicious actions towards the survivors before, during and after Katrina.

But survivors are not the only ones speaking out. Local reporters and politicians from both sides of the aisle have criticized the government's inaction.

On Wednesday, Mississippi Republican Governor Haley Barbour, a staunch Bush supporter and former chair of the Republican National Committee stated, "we are at a point where our recovery and renewal efforts are stalled because of inaction in Washington D.C." Barbour went on to say there was no money to rebuild highways and bridges and school districts were close to bankruptcy. And he was just referring to Mississippi.

The city of New Orleans remains in a state of emergency with most residents unable to return. Many say they have been abandoned by the federal government, the same way they were abandoned during the first days of the storm. The Times-Picayune carried an editorial on the front page recently pleading "Do Not Let the City Die." Local advocates say the government is not committed to rebuilding the city for all of its citizens. They point to the fact that few public housing units have been reopened and that landlords are being allowed to evict people in mass numbers.

80% of New Orleans residents have not returned. And those who have are mostly white and wealthy. African-Americans especially feel the government is not making an effort to ensure that they are able to return. A group of homeless evacuees are filing a lawsuit in Federal Court today contending that FEMA engaged in illegal practices by denying or delaying their requests for temporary housing. They are also demanding that the agency back off of its plan to kick people out of their hotels in the coming days. The FEMA deadline for evacuees to be out of their hotels is December 15th with evacuees in some states granted until January 7th to find new housing.

A recent poll conducted by the Washington Post found 61% of evacuees sampled in Houston said their experience since Katrina has made them think that the government doesn't care about them. 68% of those surveyed believed that the federal government would have responded more quickly if people trapped in the city were "wealthier and white rather than poorer and black."

On Tuesday, a special House Select Committee held a hearing focusing on the role of race and class in the government's response to Katrina. The hearing was requested by Georgia Representative Cynthia McKinney. She was one of the few Democrats to participate. It was a most unusual hearing - one that we rarely see on Capitol Hill. Survivors and activists testified that racism was a big reason so many were abandoned and allowed to die.

* Excerpts of House Select Committee hearing on the government's response to Katrina. Among those who testified:
- Ishmael Muhammad, attorney for the Advancement Project and part of the People's Hurricane Relief Fund.
- Leah Hodges, New Orleans evacuee.
- Dyan French, New Orleans community leader.
- Harry Alford, president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.


LEAH HODGES: Very true. Very true. Particularly true of [inaudible] and Jefferson Parish. Jefferson Parish is where the Causeway concentration camp was housed, where we experienced the Gestapo-type oppression, as opposed to being rescued. We were three minutes away from the airport. They could have taken us to the airport. Those military vehicles could have taken us to any dry, safe city in America. Instead, they dumped us at a dumping ground, sealed us in there, and they backed up all their authority with military M-16s.

And there were thousands and thousands of people. On the last day we were in there -- and let me tell you something -- they hand-picked the white people to ride out first. Yes, racism was very much involved. They hand-picked the white people to ride out first. Every day, the crowd got darker and darker and darker until finally there were only – there were 95% people of color in that place.

REP. JEFF MILLER: Miss Hodges, would you be offended if I respectfully asked you not to call the Causeway area a concentration camp?

LEAH HODGES: I am going to call it what it is. If I put a dress on a pig, a pig is still a pig.

REP. JEFF MILLER: Are you familiar with the history?

LEAH HODGES: Yes, sir, I am. And that is the only thing I could compare what we went through to: a concentration camp.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: And that's the truth.


ISHMAEL MUHAMMAD: When we talk about being truthful, and we are dealing with an environment in which lies are consistently told to the population. From the syphilis experiment, to not want to talk about how many civilians and innocent people are being killed in Iraq, to the counterintelligence program, I mean, we have a number of instances where the government here campaigns in a way to hide its problems from the international community and from its own population. So we saw in Katrina a media campaign that began in a very humane way, and then all of a sudden, take a serious turn to the same old, same old again.

We know that there was a shoot-to-kill order given in an environment that already was problematic in terms of black people being killed by authorities. So, just using your common sense—the sense we all got a little bit of, at least—you give someone rearing to go, before Katrina, in a disaster situation, a shoot-to-kill order and create an environment where everybody is a potential looter, you are going to have people getting shot down by police, by law enforcement authorities. And then you have account after account after account of people being killed. Then you have statements being made by law enforcement officials and government officials that the only—that all deaths are going to be identified as happening August 29th as the date and no identification is going to be made of what actually killed anyone, what actually made people—what actually was the reason that people died. Why is that? And then you have reports that 10,000 people may be dead, and all of a sudden we have a body count of a little over 1,000.

I mean, it’s important that we do our job as people in the—of the people, to uncover the truth, and it's important that those that are serious about the truth in the Congress do their job to push the Congress to uncover the truth. But we have at least a number of accounts that tell us that people were shot and killed by the police. We are pursuing that. We will be suing on that, and let’s see if it gets laughed out of court. Then we'll know something about the body count.

Now, about this insurance issue—and it's interesting, too, with the body count that FEMA doesn't want to release any information. FEMA has been asked for information after information from various organizations. We actually got FEMA to give up some information to protect people's rights not to get evicted from their home without notice. That was just like the only FEMA victory so far. But FEMA doesn't want to tell anyone anything.



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