Police State America : Starving Out The "Stayers"
20,000 Military Deployed In Non-Flooded Districts Of New Orleans
Water, Food Deliveries Refused To Residents
By Darryl Mason
Eyewitness reports are now spreading across the internet of forced evacuations of non-flooded districts of New Orleans and surrounding areas.
Filmmaker Gloria La Riva and photographer Bill Hackwell arrived in New Orleans on Saturday, September 3, planning to document the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but they have known found themselves in the middle of a militarised zone.
The district of Algiers sits high on the banks of the Mississippi River, not far from the French Quarter of New Orleans. Hackwell and La Riva estimate 15% of the residents remain in their moderately damaged or undamaged homes and are refusing to leave, as they believe they will not be affected by the clearing and rebuilding operations soon to start.
Regardless of the state of their homes, there remains numerous undamaged schools, churches and parks to house the homeless, but all residents are being told to leave, even though floodwaters didn’t reach this district.
Armed police and military and special forces are everywhere. Dozens of military helicopters patrol the skies. Entire districts are ringed by heavily armed checkpoints.
Survivors who approach the armed men are told to get out, that there will be no food and water deliveries, even though exactly these kinds of supplies are being trucked in. This food and medical equipment, however, is for military use, not civilian.
Rumours are sweeping Algiers, nearby Jefferson Parish and New Orleans that the areas are being “depopulated”, cleansed of all residents, for reasons not yet clear.
The residents have heard of the hell in the refugee camps and have decided to stay where they are as long as they can. Many can’t leave, as they don’t have money or transport and there are no buses or civilian vehicles supplied.
They have been told they can collect water but they need to travel some 17 miles to the nearest distribution centre for water and ice. If they make it to the centre they are reportedly only allowed one case of water per family.
Those with vehicles have been picking up food and water from out of town and delivering the supplies to their neighbours, but such supply runs are taking the drivers further and further out of the area, and on return they have to pass through numerous checkpoints where they are told it’s almost time to leave.
The residents of Algiers have told visitors they don’t understand why the military and police now patrolling the streets aren’t providing any services. The elderly, injured and sick have not been checked up on, nor has there been any medical survey of the survivors.
The visitors have learned that the owner of a park has offered its free use for tents, trailers and caravans to house the homeless, the frail and the ill. FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been contacted about providing services for the park but residents have said there is no interest from FEMA in such a plan and they’re not returning phone calls.
Although the area is poor and mostly black, Algiers streets are filled with historic homes. This is high value real estate, close to the New Orleans CBD. The residents who remain in their homes now fear they will be forced out as the area is depopulated. Those who have left were only allowed to take what they could carry in their cars, or in a couple of bags, if they had no transport. The residents fear now that if they leave and are re-settled in the camps, most in neighbouring states, they will not be allowed to return to Algiers.
Stories have reached local radio and television stations that district residents who were evacuated to the New Orleans International Airport were forced onto buses and planes in the filthy clothes they had been wearing for days, not allowed to go home to fill a bag or collect cherished possessions.
Resident Pauline Noble said her and her husband were door-knocked at home and told to evacuate by the military. They were given one minute to leave.
"We said that we weren't ready and...they can't force us to leave," said Pauline. She claims she was told that if they didn’t leave when next instructed they would be arrested.
Although medical teams, doctors and nurses have arrived from as far away as California, these health professionals are not allowed to go around the houses or set up neighbourhood facilities for the sick and frail. The teams are based out of locations like the airport, so those needing assistance have to find their own way there to get the medical attention they need. Those who don’t have vehicles or petrol or bicycles or can’t walk have been left to fend for themselves in their homes.
The residents are baffled. Why are the military deployed around office blocks and downtown buildings when so many injured and sick people are still in their homes and needing assistance?
The people of Algiers and New Orleans are now starting to believe they are being starved out of their homes and neighbourhoods. With little or no money they will have no choice but to seek out a refugee camp.
But the main camps are filling fast. Some are already turning new arrivals away. The city of Houston has said it will accept no more refugees, period, and neighbouring cities like Baton Rogue have already accepted so many people the population has doubled. Supermarket shelves are emptying, petrol is running out, electricity is non-existent or infrequent.
These late leavers may have to travel across many states to find a cot and food and clean clothes, not knowing if they will ever be allowed to return to their homes.
This is America, September 5, 2005.
(note : details for this story were sourced from nola.com and Louisiana local TV and radio news and online news sites. I can't link to these stories because most of them no longer appear to exist online).