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Power to the victims of New Orleans

Power to the victims of New Orleans

With the poor gone, developers are planning to gentrify the city
Naomi Klein
Friday September 9, 2005
The Guardian
(Editor's note: Will the rebuilding of New Orleans be handled like the rebuilding of Iraq? If so...then the poor, blacks, and minorities will be fighting the rich and powerful for their natural resources, just like the poor are fighting in Iraq for theirs.)

On September 4, six days after Katrina hit, I saw the first glimmer of hope. "The people of New Orleans will not go quietly into the night, scattering across this country to become homeless in countless other cities while federal relief funds are funnelled into rebuilding casinos, hotels, chemical plants. We will not stand idly by while this disaster is used as an opportunity to replace our homes with newly built mansions and condos in a gentrified New Orleans."

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The statement came from Community Labor United, a coalition of low-income groups in New Orleans. It went on to demand that a committee made up of evacuees "oversee Fema, the Red Cross and other organisations collecting resources on behalf of our people. We are calling for evacuees from our community to actively participate in the rebuilding of New Orleans."
It's a radical concept: the $10.5bn released by Congress and the $500m raised by private charities doesn't actually belong to the relief agencies or the government - it belongs to the victims. The agencies entrusted with the money should be accountable to them. Put another way, the people Barbara Bush tactfully described as "underprivileged anyway" just got very rich.

Except relief and reconstruction never seem to work like that. When I was in Sri Lanka six months after the tsunami, many survivors told me that the reconstruction was victimising them all over again. A council of the country's most prominent businesspeople had been put in charge of the process, and they were handing the coast over to tourist developers at a frantic pace. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of poor fishing people were still stuck in sweltering inland camps, patrolled by soldiers with machine guns and entirely dependent on relief agencies for food and water. They called reconstruction "the second tsunami".

There are already signs that New Orleans evacuees could face a similarly brutal second storm. Jimmy Reiss, chairman of the New Orleans Business Council, told Newsweek that he has been brainstorming about how "to use this catastrophe as a once-in-an-eon opportunity to change the dynamic". The council's wish list is well-known: low wages, low taxes, more luxury condos and hotels.

Before the flood, this highly profitable vision was already displacing thousands of poor African-Americans: while their music and culture was for sale in an increasingly corporatised French Quarter (where only 4.3% of residents are black), their housing developments were being torn down. "For white tourists and businesspeople, New Orleans's reputation means a great place to have a vacation, but don't leave the French Quarter or you'll get shot," Jordan Flaherty, a New Orleans-based labour organiser told me the day after he left the city by boat. "Now the developers have their big chance to disperse the obstacle to gentrification - poor people."

Here's a better idea: New Orleans could be reconstructed by and for the very people most victimised by the flood. Schools and hospitals that were falling apart before could finally have adequate resources; the rebuilding could create thousands of local jobs and provide massive skills training in decent paying industries. Rather than handing over the reconstruction to the same corrupt elite that failed the city so spectacularly, the effort could be led by groups like Douglass Community Coalition. Before the hurricane, this remarkable assembly of parents, teachers, students and artists was trying to reconstruct the city from the ravages of poverty by transforming Frederick Douglass senior high school into a model of community learning. They have already done the painstaking work of building consensus around education reform. Now that the funds are flowing, shouldn't they have the tools to rebuild every ailing public school in the city?

For a people's reconstruction process to become a reality (and to keep more contracts from going to Halliburton), the evacuees must be at the centre of all decision-making. According to Curtis Muhammad of Community Labor United, the disaster's starkest lesson is that African-Americans cannot count on any level of government to protect them.

"We had no caretakers," he says. That means the community groups that do represent African-Americans in Louisiana and Mississippi - many of which lost staff, office space and equipment in the flood - need our support now. Only a massive injection of cash and volunteers will enable them to do the crucial work of organising evacuees - currently scattered through 41 states - into a powerful political constituency. The most pressing question is where evacuees will live over the next few months. A dangerous consensus is building that they should collect a little charity, apply for a job at the Houston Wal-Mart and move on. Muhammad and CLU, however, are calling for the right to return: they know that if evacuees are going to have houses and schools to come back to, many will need to return to their home states and fight for them.

These ideas are not without precedent. When Mexico City was struck by a devastating earthquake in 1985, the state also failed the people: poorly constructed public housing crumbled and the army was ready to bulldoze buildings with survivors still trapped inside. A month after the quake, 40,000 angry refugees marched on the government, refusing to be relocated out of their neighbourhoods and demanding a "democratic reconstruction". Not only were 50,000 new dwellings for the homeless built in a year; the neighbourhood groups that grew out of the rubble launched a movement that is challenging Mexico's traditional power holders to this day.

And the people I met in Sri Lanka have grown tired of waiting for the promised relief. Some survivors are now calling for a people's planning commission for post-tsunami recovery. They say the relief agencies should answer to them; it's their money, after all.

The idea could take hold in the United States, and it must. Because there is only one thing that can compensate the victims of this most human of natural disasters, and that is what has been denied them throughout: power. It will be a long and difficult battle, but New Orleans's evacuees should draw strength from the knowledge that they are no longer poor people; they are rich people who have been temporarily locked out of their bank accounts.


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These united states of America now stand on the edge of a very dangerous precipice. The actions or inactions that We the people engage with in the coming days WILL decide our futures, and our childrens futures. Make no mistake...We the people are crossing the threshold of Historical and Biblical Porportions right now, right here!
To those of you out there in this country that are still "on the fence" as to the behaviour of our government with their flagrant abuse of our Constitution in the Post 911 era, I say WAKE UP!
These united states of America now stand on the edge of a very dangerous precipice. The actions or inactions that We the people engage with in the coming days WILL decide our futures, and our children's futures. Make no mistake...We the people are crossing the threshold of Historical and Biblical Proportions right now, right here!
To those of you out there in this country that are still "on the fence" as to the behavior of our government with their flagrant abuse of our Constitution in the Post 911 era, I say WAKE UP! GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF THE SAND! There is no excuse for ignorance, especially now in this so-called "Information Age" we live in.
And to those of you out there in this "Land of the Free, Home of the Brave" who still have not made up their minds whether it is "OK" to allow the government to conduct torture of foreign POW's and to order the shooting of innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, I ask What in HELL makes you think that pretending "It's all OK" is going to get you make you safe, or that your indifference is going to keep you from the Hell of your own making?
And to those of you out there in this country who call themselves Christians, who claim the "moral high ground" and who see "terrorists" lurking everywhere that are "evil" and have to be smitten by our "Righteous and Godly Society of Benefactors for Humanity", I bow my head in sorrow, for you have fallen for the Great Lie. You have played right into the prophecy of Revelations and without realizing it, you have become the "masses" blindly following your false prophet, believing that yours is the righteous cause, to the very end, when you will be destroyed.
Your "leader", that is supposedly "chosen by God", directly ordered the murdering of civilians... mostly women, children and little babies for "psychological effect" in his "Shock and Awe" campaign. Jesus Christ would never bomb or kill or murder, for any reason. Any Christian that thinks already lost. Every member of the Bush Administration has committed felonious crimes, some individually in their pasts, and all since they were "elected".
And to those of you out there in this country that maybe don't believe in God, you should be the most concerned because according to your paradigm, the only way that you are going to be "saved" is for you to take action to save yourself.
The Pentagon has already admitted to having Martial Law plans in place just in case, you know, terrorists...Excuse me? The idea that OUR government of OUR supposed "free" society would even have this authority is offensive to the extreme. They do NOT have the authority!
The people of this country need to remember their own turbulent history and NOT hand over the keys to our future to common dictators! We...every one of us...We ALL have a very serious problem that We must deal with. It is OUR Responsibility and OUR Duty to ALL the people that have died in both our history and in our present. And that is... to Defend our Constitution above all else.
We HAVE the power, if only we would remember who We are and where We come from. We cannot allow the powerful corporate and wealthy elite in this country to dictate OUR future to us. We must come to the aid of the Katrina Refugees and We must ALL act to protect their interests from those that would so willingly see the good people of the Gulf Coast region cast aside for greed and power. We must act NOW!
Power to the people! Come to D.C. on September 24th!
Rev. Paul Fisher
Paradise California

Total Gun Confiscation of Law Abiding Citizens Begins

Federal forces lead criminal gangs of police in America-killing gun grab

“The balloon has gone up, the shoe has dropped. Anyone doubting the criminal intentions of the social engineer control-freaks in Washington need only look at middle-class neighborhoods being stormed by black-masked wearing jackboots on a mission to steal guns.

This is a precedent setting case for national gun confiscation. This is a clear declaration of war by the Federal Government against the American people. This is exactly how Lexington and Concord started the Revolutionary War in 1775.

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