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Mitchel Cohen: The People of the Dome

The People of the Dome


by Mitchel Cohen

Les Evenchick, an independent Green who lives in the French Quarter of New Orleans in a 3-story walkup, reports that 90 percent of the so-called looters are simply grabbing water, food, diapers and medicines, because the federal and state officials have refused to provide these basic necessities.

Les says that “it’s only because of the looters that non-looters -- old people, sick people, small children -- are able to survive.”

Those people who stole televisions and large non-emergency items have been SELLING THEM, Les reports (having witnessed several of these "exchanges") so that they could get enough money together to leave the area.

Think about it:

- People were told to leave, but all the bus stations had closed down the night before and the personnel sent packing.

- Many people couldn't afford tickets anyway.

- Many people are stranded, and others are refusing to leave their homes, pets, etc. They don't have cars.

You want people to stop looting? Provide the means for them to eat, and to leave the area.

Some tourists in the Monteleone Hotel paid $25,000 for 10 buses. The buses were sent (I guess there were many buses available, if you paid the price!) but the military confiscated them to use NOT for transporting people in the Dome but for the military. The tourists were not allowed to leave. Instead, the military ordered the tourists to the now-infamous Convention Center.

HOW SIMPLE it would have been for the State and/or US government to have provided buses for people BEFORE the hurricane hit, and throughout this week. Even evacuating 100,000 people trapped there -- that's 3,000 buses, less than come into Washington D.C. for some of the giant antiwar demonstrations there. Even at $2,500 a pop -- highway robbery -- that would only be a total of $7.5 million for transporting all of those who did not have the means to leave.

Instead, look at the human and economic cost of not doing that!

So why didn't they do that?

On Wednesday Green Party activists tried to bring a large amount of water to the SuperDome. They were prevented from doing so, as have many others. Why have food and water been BLOCKED from reaching tens of thousands of poor people?

On Thursday, the government used the excuse that there were some very scattered gunshots (two or three instances only) -- around 1/50th of the number of gunshots that occur in New York City on an average day -- to shut down voluntary rescue operations and to scrounge for 5,000 National Guard troops fully armed, with "shoot to kill" orders -- at a huge economic cost.

They even refused to allow voluntary workers who had rescued over 1,000 people in boats over the previous days to continue on Thursday, using the several gunshots (and who knows WHO shot off those rounds?) to say "It's too dangerous". The volunteers didn't think the gunshots were dangerous to them and wanted to continue their rescue operations and had to be "convinced" at gunpoint to "cease and desist."

There is something sinister going down -- it's not just incompetence or negligence.

How could FEMA and Homeland Security not have something so basic as bottled drinking water in the SuperDome, which was long a part of the hurricane plan? One police officer in charge of his 120-person unit said yesterday that his squad was provided with only 70 small bottles of water.

Two years ago, New Orleans residents -- the only area in the entire state that voted in huge numbers against the candidacy of George Bush -- also fought off attempts to privatize the drinking water supply. There have also been major battles to block Shell Oil's attempt to build a Liquid Natural Gas facility, and to preent the teardown of public housing (which failed), with the Mayor lining up in the latter two issues on the side of the oil companies and the developers.

One of the first acts of Governor Kathleen Blanco (a Democrat, by the way) during this crisis was to TURN OFF the drinking water, to force people to evacuate. There was no health reason to turn it off, as the water is drawn into a separate system from the Mississippi River, not the polluted lake, and purified through self-powered purification plants separate from the main electric grid. If necessary, people could have been told to boil their water -- strangely, the municipal natural gas used in stoves was still functioning properly as of Thursday night!

There are thousands of New Orleans residents who are refusing to evacuate because they don't want to leave their pets, their homes, or who have no money to do so nor place to go. The government -- which COULD HAVE and SHOULD HAVE provided water and food to residents of New Orleans -- has NOT done so INTENTIONALLY to force people to evacuate by starving them out. This is a crime of the gravest sort.

We need to understand that the capability has been there from the start to DRIVE water and food right up to the convention center, as those roads have been clear -- it's how the National Guard drove into the city.

Let me say this again: Until the National Guard marched in today (Friday), the government was intentionally not allowing food or water to be distributed.

This is for real.

MSNBC interviewed dozens of people who had gotten out. Every single one of them was WHITE.

The people who are poor (primarily Black but many poor Whites as well) are finally being allowed to leave the horrendous conditions in the SuperDome; many are being bussed to the AstroDome in Houston.

Call them "People of the Dome."

If people resist the National Guard coming to remove them against their will, will New Orleans become known as the first battle in the new American revolution?

*************

Mitchel Cohen Brooklyn Greens / Green Party of NY, and co-editor of “G”, the newspaper of the NY State Greens

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