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The state is not your friend…

This is not the first article with this title I have written but if some of the accounts coming out of New Orleans prove to be genuine and fair accounts, then I suspect a whole new generation of people who agree with my tagline have just been created on the Gulf Coast of the United States. This was written by a pair of paramedics who were trapped in New Orleans.

We decided we had to save ourselves. So we pooled our money and came up with $25,000 to have ten buses come and take us out of the City. Those who did not have the requisite $45.00 for a ticket were subsidized by those who did have extra money. We waited for 48 hours for the buses, spending the last 12 hours standing outside, sharing the limited water, food, and clothes we had. We created a priority boarding area for the sick, elderly and new born babies. We waited late into the night for the “imminent” arrival of the buses. The buses never arrived. We later learned that the minute the arrived to the City limits, they were commandeered by the military.

These are clearly admirable self-reliant people here, not a bunch of welfare addled ‘do nothings’ incapable of independent thinking. They came up with a solution to their problem and the state simply stole it from them.

And if this is true, I can think of no better justification to openly state that people should own firearms to defend themselves not just against criminals but from agents of the state when there is a crisis.

We organized ourselves and the 200 of us set off for the bridge with great excitement and hope. As we marched pasted the convention center, many locals saw our determined and optimistic group and asked where we were headed. We told them about the great news. Families immediately grabbed their few belongings and quickly our numbers doubled and then doubled again. Babies in strollers now joined us, people using crutches, elderly clasping walkers and others people in wheelchairs. We marched the 2-3 miles to the freeway and up the steep incline to the Bridge. It now began to pour down rain, but it did not dampen our enthusiasm.

As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander’s assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.

We questioned why we couldn’t cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans.

And the real stunner…

Unfortunately, our sinking feeling (along with the sinking City) was correct. Just as dusk set in, a Gretna Sheriff showed up, jumped out of his patrol vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces, screaming, “Get off the fucking freeway”. A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck with our food and water.

Once again, at gunpoint, we were forced off the freeway. All the law enforcement agencies appeared threatened when we congregated or congealed into groups of 20 or more. In every congregation of “victims” they saw “mob” or “riot”. We felt safety in numbers. Our “we must stay together” was impossible because the agencies would force us into small atomized groups.

In the pandemonium of having our camp raided and destroyed, we scattered once again. Reduced to a small group of 8 people, in the dark, we sought refuge in an abandoned school bus, under the freeway on Cilo Street. We were hiding from possible criminal elements but equally and definitely, we were hiding from the police and sheriffs with their martial law, curfew and shoot-to-kill policies.

Ok, now would someone like to tell me why these people (a) should not have been armed (b) would not have been entirely justified using deadly force against the ‘law enforcement’ officials who, at gunpoint, did their damnedest to reduce their chances of survival?

We have heard accounts by authorities of crazed looters inexplicably shooting at contractors who were just trying to repair essential infrastructure. You know what? Maybe that is what happened and maybe not. I find myself thinking the official version of a great deal of what went on is far from the truth. Yet all we are ever going to see on CNN is pictures of heroic cops and National Guardsmen saving the day.

Unless this account proves to be a hoax or a gross misrepresentation of what happened, nothing less than a root and branch purge of the power structures in Louisiana will be enough. This is a true national scandal of the highest magnitude. I am appalled but not entirely surprised.

147 comments to The state is not your friend…

  • And of course, the mainstream media in the US cannot spare the time from trying to score cheap political points to tell this story, which is infinitely more revealing and important than the crap they are currently shoveling.

  • ian

    The whole sorry mess seems to be characterised by total incompetence at all levels of government (with a few honourable exceptions), a degree of callousness and sefishness I thought even a society as polarised as the US would not sink to and, post Katrina, a readiness to apportion blame and jump on the Presidential bandwagon with a speed that amazed even a cynic like me.

  • Robert Alderson

    The predominantly black and poor trapped in New Orleans already know that the state (in the form of law enforcement) is not their friend. Our challenge is to make people see that the solution is destroying the state rather than just trying to take control of the state.

    One of the most telling lines in the article was about the use of sniffer dogs on the refugees – even in the aftermath of a hurricane the war on drugs continues unabated.

  • Sylvain Galineau

    No no no. People, people.

    The real problem is price ‘gouging’ by gas stations. Thank God Congress is going to protect us from the great and unspeakable evil of ‘profiteering’.

    More seriously, this hurricane is an exceptional event on so many levels. Politically, it may have the potential to do and undo more than two years of Iraq war have. Or so it seems today, when our noses are probably still too close to the picture.

  • Boondoggle

    Do you really believe this??? It sounds a lot like the
    “people are eating the dead” story that was made
    up by some race hustler to promote an agenda.

  • Julian Taylor

    What federal or local law serves to protect someone from the state if, as we have seen on the coverage in the UK, he has no money and no family but has a lot of food, water and has unmistakenly told anyone coming to ‘evacuate’ him that he isn’t leaving his property? Does any such ‘my home is my castle’ law exist in the US?

  • Else

    (a)Who said they should’nt be armed? I thought guns were freely available to thouse who wanted them? You mean you think they ought to have been armed, don’t you? That is a matter of presonal choice and it’s debateable wether or not guns could have helped these people against such calousness. I think the likely result would have been a shoot-out with the state winning hands -down, then a more brutal repression. The circle of violence and all that……..

    (b) Obviously not legally justified, but morally justified? It’s just the ‘law of the jungle’ stuff here, right? Nice to see that those outside the diaster zone are happy to encourage extra carnage. Why don’t you go there and take out a few cops yourself to even it up? But of course you are an independent self-owner looking after your own interests etc. etc. Maybe the cops are just looking after theirs? And what could be wrong with that?

  • Robert

    Has this story been checked for accuracy? I can only recall one time since the hurricane that it was raining in New Orleans. I’m a bit skeptical about the idea that sherrifs fired live rounds over the heads of a peaceful crowd.

  • Tim AR

    Someone needs to get the name of that company that charged people stranded in an emergency zone $25k to get them out.

  • Robert Alderson

    Tim AR,

    The tickets for the several hundred people who clubbed together to get buses worked out at $45 each – I don’t think that this is an unreasonable amount.

  • Sylvain Galineau

    Tim AR, what’s so disturbing about $25,000 ? Ten buses means $2500/bus; at $45 per passenger that’s about 50-55 people per bus.

    This doesn’t seem like an outrageous price given that a) the buses were coming into a disaster area and b) drove down empty and back full i.e. did a round-trip.

  • I’m afraid I’d have to turn a jaundiced eye on this one. The $25K for the buses/$45 per person actually DID happen. I saw the interview of the folks who’d paid for it. The difference was, they were TOURISTS in a hotel who couldn’t get out and the hotel MANAGEMENT had arranged for the buses, which were later commandeered by the govt. No trek over a bridge, no paramedics, no sheriffs trying to keep up the ‘hood. Nothing but folks still stuck in a hotel when they thought they were getting out. It sounds VERY MUCH as if the story had a little literary licence tweak job and that the last part of the saga was a fantasy addition.

  • Hmmm, Bradshaw seems to be real. Here he is writing prior to Katrina over on the ‘Socialist Workers’ site.
    (Link)

    This association shouldn’t automatically discredit him but I think caution is advised.

  • Tim AR

    The point isn’t that the amount was unreasonable, it’s that the company charged them at all in the middle of a disaster like this. The company needs to be exposed and publicly embarrassed.

  • Sylvain Galineau

    Tree hugging sister, it’s entirely possible different groups of people ordered themselves buses. In fact, it would be rather unlikely that one single hotel would do this, and that no group of individuals wouldn’t try to organize something similar.

  • paul a'barge

    Have you sent this to Snopes.com for what will most likely be debunked?

    Don’t get me wrong, but frankly, this story is so unlikely, I’m shocked your tendency is to buy into it.

  • LaurieK

    The “commandeered bus” story sounds an awful lot like the story told in reference to the hotel in the French Quarter Hotel, which paid $25,000 to evacuate its guests after the storm, only to have the busses commandeered by the military. Key details are the same in both accounts, yet in the story related here, there’s been a twist that makes the circumstances more extreme and desperate. I’ve always wanted “be there” at the birth of an urban legend. Perhaps I’m getting my wish!

  • Kevin

    Unlike you or most of your posters, I know for a fact what was happening. I live on the Westbank and know personally the Gretna “Sherrif”. He is in fact the Gretna Police Chief.

    There were two reasons for stopping the crowds from crossing:

    1. There was no place to go on the Westbank. The nearest evacuation center was several miles away in Westwego. Few people would have made it that far if they knew where it was.

    2. The GPD was aware of the looting and other mayhem going on in the city and they were not about to let the nerdowells into the city to do there what they did in New Orleans.

    I’m lucky. My home was not flooded, was not destroyed by wind nor was it looted. We cannot control the first two, but the GPD certainly could control the third, and that they did.

    Now, I expect to get a lot of posters condeming me to being callous, but I don’t care. All that I own is still in the house. My life is invested in that house. I built it from the ground up and I’ll be damned if I will allow a bunch of gangsters and murderers take it away from me.

    All you do-gooders out there perhaps should direct your anger to the ones who accually did the looting, murering, raping, sniping at rescuers and the like. For it was because of them the Gretna PD was forced to defend their city and the poor evacuees had to suffer.

    And for those who still insist on calling me callous, let me tell you this; yes, I still have my house, I have another job now and am staying with family in Baton Rouge, the suffering of others is not lost on me.

    The refugees seen on TV were located just two to three blocks from where I work. Some people living in the hardest hit areas were aquantences of mine and I have no idea as to their whereabouts. Hell, some of those bodies flooting down streets may be people I know.

    I plan on returning to NO ASAP as well as many of my colegues to rebuild the city not mater how long it takes. New Orleans is my home and it will remain my home.

    So people, please get your facts straight and get the whole story before you post something. Otherwise, your no better than the news buzzards who parachute into a tragedy to get their face time doing rightous indignation and leaving.

    Regards,

    Kevin

  • thad

    As related, the story is appalling. But there is good reason to be skeptical. I googled Lorrie Lorrie Beth Slonsky and Larry Bradshaw and, while they are both no doubt paramedics, they seem to take much greater interest in union agitation and in authoring pieces for the Socialist Worker Online than they do in saving lives.

    http://www.socialistworker.org/2003-2/458/458_11_790.shtml(Link)

  • Don’t get me wrong, but frankly, this story is so unlikely, I’m shocked your tendency is to buy into it.

    What is so unlikely about state agents screwing up and/or acting maliciously in a situation as SNAFU as this? They aren’t angels and are as imperfect as everyone else. As a group, they may self-select to be more concerned about the community a higher degree, but I think that can be and is often counter-balanced by the fact that you can’t “fire” a bad state agency, thus removing an important check on incompetence.

    I’ve read several accounts that describe either outrageous indifference/dereliction of duty or anal retentive adherence to rules and regulations. Some may turn out to be total bullshit. But I won’t discount all.

  • Thad, read before posting please. This has already been pointed out.

  • tyree

    There have been so many rumors floating around because of the communications failure that I wouldn’t believe this story for a minute until there is some way to verify it. There are stories of “the government” opening up the levee to flood out the black people. Stories, since retracted, of people eating dead people. My family is from New Orleans and southerners are not the monsters the left wing is trying to make them out to be. Remember everyone; the hurricane devastated an area the size of Great Britain. There is enough real good and bad in a situation like that to satisfy us all. Let’s leave the rumor mongering to the Krazy Kos Kids. That being said, if this turns out to be true, we are going to have to replace these cops and the looting cops with people we that are trustworthy. Maybe NYPD has a few more heroes they can spare.

  • Ray

    You can’t expect to shoot and kill police officers one minute and then have them share their tasty donuts with you the next. If I’m a cop standing there at the bottom of the bridge after being shot at for two days, I’m going to treat a huge mob of angry people a little differently than I would normal people under normal circumstances. The police didn’t know who was naughty and who was nice, so in the interest of their own safety, they did what was necessary. Overreaction, maybe, but better safe than sorry.

    That said, I think this story is complete BS.

  • Lance

    Guys,

    I think they are two different stories that he is posting. The people going to the bridge and the paramedics I mean are two different stories. As for the story that many people are saying is so incredible on that bridge, it sure doesn’t surprise me. That doesn’t make the story true, but the idea that the police in Gretna or in much of south La. are incapable of acting that way is just plain wrong. I know some of them (luckily, not well) and many definitely would act that way and feel that way about their fellow minority citizens. When it comes to the police down here, the state all too often is definitely not my friend.

  • someotherwhiteboy

    Keep in mind that black people generally are prone to emotionalism and exagerration.

    They also are poor tippers and obnoxious demanding customers in restaurants.

  • Dale Amon

    With the ‘power of the blogosphere’ aroused, I am sure we will find out soon enough whether this is accurate or not.

    I would say to the resident that it is only fair to hear the story from the other side of the bridge. Perhaps it is discomfitting. One should consider that probably very few of those people were criminal in any sense.

    If this was all true, then a better way of handling it would have been to assist in transporting a few people at a time through to safety rather than forcing them back into hell and then undoing their meagre attempts at creating order from the chaos around them.

    Perhaps it is all an SWP fairy tale. If it is, I find it fascinating that they seem to be in agreement with the ability of decent people to co-opeate and work together of their own free will.

  • Jerry

    After reading the article at the top of this blog, I realized that the person writing it does not have the ability to back up some of the statements made.
    for example”
    1) Army personel would not take any food or water from a person that is homeless from this disaster.
    2) People that have been displaced by the storm are now being trabsported to other states and towns and there are also people offering free housing in other states.
    3) The police would not fire thier weapons unless threat to self or other officer.
    4) The police have been ordered to help any homless persons that are in groups and attempt to find them temporary shelter.
    5) There maybe a little (not much) truth to the issue of persons “squatting” on the freeway. The Freeway needs to remain clear for transportation, but the military or police would NEVER use force or point a weapon at them to get them off the Freeway.
    6) The sniper story is true, it can be found on MSNBC.com news site.

    We need to remember that there will be alot of rumor , suspect stories of mistreatment etc… this always happens when chaos rules.

  • Clearly, this was George Bush’s fault. I hear that he cannibalizes Black people. Why didn’t FEMA take over the Sheriff’s Department? Why can’t we all just git along?

  • Oh I agree that final judgement should be reserved until we know for sure if this story is true. Moreover it may be ‘true’ in crude terms but a misrepresentation of why these things happened. That is why I wrote “Unless this account proves to be a hoax or a gross misrepresentation of what happened…”

    It is always important to retain a critical eye.

    But that said, to turn things around, please do not just assume it is not true just because it is displeasing to think public ‘servants’ would behave that way.

    Either way I would like this story to get aired so that either it is debunked (which frankly I would prefer as I hate to think that is really what happened) or it is confirmed and some serious repercussions occur as a result.

    If the people who wrote it are in fact socialists, I must say there is a certain sweet irony to it, seeing as the laudable actions and spontaneous order about which they wrote are pure non-coerced ‘civil society’ at work and the malevolent hand of the state is very mechanism they advocate as the solution to the world’s woes.

  • OK, I don’t know about THIS story, but most commenters here seem to agree that ELEMENTS of this story true.

    Yes, people were stopped from going across the bridge into Gretna, and people died on the side of the road, because of it.

    Yes, buses were ordered for $25Kand commandeered or stopped by someone (though what they did with them, I never heard, certainly didn’t seem like they were busing people out at the time I heard it).

    …etc.

    Is this story in its entirety true? I have no idea. But there’s enough of it that is that we do need to get to the bottom stories like this. Shame on anybody from Socialist Workers (or elsewhere) who is agitating through fiction when there’s plenty of shocking truth to be found. And shame, shame on anyone who tries to cover up what happened in NOLA. Even if THIS story is disproved as a genuine timeline of events, that doesn’t mean that things like this didn’t happen, perhaps to different individuals.

  • Tree hugging sister, it’s entirely possible different groups of people ordered themselves buses. In fact, it would be rather unlikely that one single hotel would do this, and that no group of individuals wouldn’t try to organize something similar.

    Entirely possible, but the odds of that figure being the EXACT same for all of them? That IS unlikely.

    As for your second point; Not at all unlikely. When we saw the interviews, both my husband and myself got the impression (since it was conceivably the one hotel management with access to communication) that the number of buses chartered were to evacuate the groups of tourists trapped, not only in that particular hotel, but surrounding ones.

  • If true, the stories are shocking, certainly. I have a hard time believing that anyone in authority over there could wish anything other than to help anyone they saw needing to get out of the area, by whatever means necessary. But on the other hand, we’ve seen that the evacuation plan for New Orleans was NOT put into effect, the school buses left unused, etc.

    For a libertarian, the question is this: WHAT exactly IS the role of the state in such an event? In the cases above, the state acted against the freedoms of those who wanted to help THEMSELVES. And in the case of FEMA and state, federal response, a further $51 billion in aid etc., the state may be infringing on the freedoms of the general taxpaying public by stealing from them in order to aid others.

    Its an interesting discussion for those who would call themselves libertarian. The answer surely lies somewhere between the two extremes….

  • Hmm. As I process the comments so far, it sounds like

    (a) privately ordered busses for evacuation were commandeered by the state. In connection with a hotel, and not as presented above, in connection with a spontaneously formed evacuation effort, but still . . . .

    (b) a commenter apparently close to the scene (Kevin) confirms that the police were indeed turning back crowds at the bridge to Gretna.

    As for the reasons to turn them back:

    (a) the nearest evac center was several miles away. In other words, a walk of a couple or three hours. Color me unconvinced that directions couldn’t have been posted and the route patrolled to keep evacuees on foot moving toward the center. Certainly, turning people back into the holocaust of NO seems the worst option, especially since these people were, belatedly perhaps, trying to comply with the evacuation order. The whole thing becomes Kafkaesque at that point.

    (b) The cops weren’t going to ne’erdowells from NO into Gretna. Fine, but how were they going to sort the good people trying to get out from the ne’erdowells looking to make trouble? Are they justified in treating everyone as guilty? Are they even legally permitted to close a public highway in this fashion?

    I am not one to play the race card, but one is mightily tempted by the tableaux at the Gretan bridge . . . .

  • David

    Color me skeptical. There are also those anti-Iraq and anti-Bush digs worked in there for additional flavor. The overall narrative may be built around real incidents, but there are simply too many wrong notes.

  • Cliff

    Two things jumped out at me:

    “The two young guardsmen apologized for the limited response of the Louisiana guards. They explained that a large section of their unit was in Iraq and that meant they were shorthanded and were unable to complete all the tasks they were assigned.”

    “The airport had become another Superdome. We 8 were caught in a press of humanity as flights were delayed for several hours while George Bush landed briefly at the airport for a photo op.”

    Let me think… where have I heard that before? I suspect that some of this may be true. As for the rest…

    Not. Buying. It.

  • Sounds like something Moby might have written.

  • Robert Alderson

    The authors said they were atttending a conference. It is entirely possible that they were personally involved in both the $25,000 buses and then the stand-off at the Gretna bridge.

  • dearieme

    Role of the State? Well, the role it seems actually to have played, particularly at N.O. and Louisiana level, would let us call it the “Shitewatchman State”.

  • Even if the authors were barking moonbats who stick pins in voodoo dolls of George Bush, if (and I do mean IF) this story holds any water, then it is not something I would want to see swept under the carpet.

    And if it is untrue, I would like to see the authors pilloried for their statements. Either way, this should be examined.

    But as we are talking about events with literally hundreds of witnesses, I cannot see how the truth (or otherwise) of this account will remain in doubt for long.

  • Julian Morrison

    I have a suspicion this is going to affect more than just the attitude of the locals. The entire USA has been rudely awakened – in a manner that crosses party lines. Even die-hard liberals (who may phrase it as “you can’t trust Bush”) will now be more wary of betting their lives on the government’s aid.

  • jj

    Crowds can be very frightening and after the ordeal people could look pretty grubby. The wild stories had already reached these officers, I’m sure. I suspect they already had an exaggerated impression about NOLA lawlessness even before the storm. (I remember the contemptible rumors that spread about the four students shot at Kent State.) Racism has also not been eliminated from the hearts of white or black Americans. I can easily believe they were turned back from Mississippi. I also remember an earlier report of Japanese tourists who said they were shot at to turn them back.

    I can also believe that they were deliberately lied to in order to get them to move. There are a lot of stressed people in responsible positions who give orders with a second clause, “… and I don’t care how you do it!”

  • Julian Morrison

    Quote from fox news story:

    Sept. 11 is no longer the most catastrophic failure of government in my lifetime. Its response to Hurricane Katrina is. Government at all levels, run by both parties, regardless of race, inexcusably failed to secure the safety of the people of New Orleans. The lesson here is not the failure of one party or the other. The lesson here is the failure of government.

  • Dale Amon

    Here is some initial data for fact checking. There was an end of August EMS conference in New Orleans.

    EMS EXPO/NAEMT
    EMS Expo 2005
    Ernest N. Morial Convention Center
    900 Convention Center Boulevard
    New Orleans, LA 70130
    August 23-27, 2005
    http://www.emsmagazine.com

  • jambalaya

    two elements of the story are reflected here as well:

    http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/news/stories.nsf/stlouiscitycounty/story/93EB4BF112FE926C862570710012D2D2?OpenDocument

    “A group of about 200 Monteleone guests decided to try to walk out of the city to the east, and got to the on-ramp at the Crescent Connection bridge, where they were met by Gretna, La., police with shotguns. “They told us the bridge was closed to foot traffic,” Scheer said. “Some locals had joined us and became extremely unruly, threatening to rush the officers. They fired their shotguns into the air.”

    The Scheers and the three other couples began walking to the west down a highway, where they flagged down two locals in a pickup who offered to drive them to a shelter about 12 miles away in Kenner, La., to meet Scheer’s cousin. “

  • As the spin is peeled away, it sure looks to me like there is a hard core of ugly truth to this tale.

    Now we have confirmation that the Gretna cops did indeed fire over the heads of the crowd in turning them back into the City, even though the crowd was trying to comply with the evacuation order and even though there is an evacuation center a few miles from Gretna.

    Paging the mainstream media . . . . Anybody home?

  • GWC

    It’s all about OIL! The Halliburtonians found oil under Louisiana (where do you think the slicks are from?)

    The Jews, a long with Bush, the Carlyle Group and the VRWC, are eliminating a Democratic city

    The proof is all there! All you have to do is ask Penn and Moore!

  • Gil Gregory

    This is almost certainly a compilation of varying stories pieced together for desired effect. Definitely send it to snopes. I have heard pieces of this from several different locations, the original being from the hotel. The name of the bus provider would help in confirming this for sure. Very unlikely to be true in its entirety.

  • I’m going to have to go with real but unrelated events stitched together and shaded. There are a couple of clues:

    (1) If the population turned back at the bridge was comprised largely of tourist, it wouldn’t have been a largely African-American crowd but would have been mostly white people. Even if it developed a tail of local residents the head would be a cluster of white people. I have a hard time believing that middle and upper-middle class people who can afford to be tourist in NO would tolerate that kind of behavior from law enforcement. I think the crowd turned back on the bridge was probably comprised almost entirely of local residents. That doesn’t make it right but it does cast doubt on the entire narrative.

    (2) The apology of the National Guard members betrays a ignorance of the way the guard is organized. Guard units are mobilized for military duty as complete units. (In the case of the Louisiana NG, it was a heavy artillery brigade that was sent to Iraq.) They don’t pull one guy from this unit and two guys from that one. The units left behind would all be at their full strength.

    (3) The evacuation of tourist began mid-day on Wednesday and appeared to have been given higher priority than the evacuation of residents. If the author had been a tourist he should have been one of the first out of the city.

    I think it likely that this story, as a narrative of one individual, is a fabrication.

  • ian

    Many of the same comments on this story have been made in other contexts, including the discssions here:

    Making Light
    Health Care Blog
    Bitch PhD

    I agree of course that it needs verification, but to me it rings true. There are independent and reasonably well documented reports of similar behaviour to other people. I don’t have the time to track them all down (some are in the links above) but they include:

    * a group of people taking boats into the city to assist in rescue (a report by a local attorney with office address, phone number etc) who were largely turned away and generally hampered in their efforts

    * the cutting by FEMA of an emergency communication line in an an adjoining Parish

    * A group of about 50 Florida airboaters who were turned away and prevented from offering assistance

    * regular TV news reports (BBC, C4 and C5) of at best police indifference to the needs of people in distress, including one of an ill woman being threatened with a pump action shot gun by a police officer as she pleaded for help

    * a group of students who ferried in water several times using fake Press IDs

    Against that was a remarkable interview with a very sensible and pragmatic chief of police for Slidell who accepted the need for people to break into shops for water and food.

  • ian: the account you link to is rather different. The reasons for telling the pilots to concentrate on logistics rather than SAR may well be justified.

    Shannon: yes, your point is well made that the crowd described may have been largely white people, though the account does say many locals (who may have been black) joined the move towards the bridge… but if the authors are black socialists, I guess that might colour their interpretation of why the police acted the way they allegedly did, but I am more concerned to discover if they did in reality act that way rather than the subjective view of the paramedics of why they did.

  • Pat Berry

    This story is fake. Here is one of the errors that give it away:

    “The next days, our group of 8 walked most of the day, made contact with New Orleans Fire Department and were eventually airlifted out by an urban search and rescue team. [. . .] We arrived at the airport on the day a massive airlift had begun. The airport had become another Superdome. We 8 were caught in a press of humanity as flights were delayed for several hours while George Bush landed briefly at the airport for a photo op. After being evacuated on a coast guard cargo plane, we arrived in San Antonio, Texas.”

    That last bit about the President’s photo op is just too good to be true, isn’t it? And, in fact, it isn’t true. I have searched the September press releases at the White House website, and I can find no evidence that the President has gone to New Orleans since the hurricane. He did visit Louisiana’s state capital Baton Rouge, but his plane did not land at the New Orleans airport (which had been turned into a triage center by that point). It landed at Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport, ninety miles away from New Orleans.

    A Google search for “bush visits new orleans” turns up several links to news articles with that headline, but these are all instances of the same Reuters story. The Reuters headline is inaccurate. The actual text of the article states that the President landed in Baton Rouge and toured relief efforts there and in Mississippi. The article does not mention him ever visiting New Orleans.

    If President Bush really landed at the New Orleans airport for a “photo op”, where are the photos of this event?

    Here’s another error that reveals the story to be fake:

    “A mile or so down the freeway, an army truck lost a couple of pallets of C-rations on a tight turn. We ferried the food back to our camp in shopping carts. [. . .] We even organized a food recycling system where individuals could swap out parts of C-rations (applesauce for babies and candies for kids!) [. . .] Most of us had not eaten all day because our C-rations had been confiscated at the airport because the rations set off the metal detectors.”

    The U.S. military phased out C-rations over two decades ago. They were replaced with MREs, which would not set off a metal detector because all the food is in plastic packets.

  • Shannon Love wrote:

    “I have a hard time believing that middle and upper-middle class [white] people… would tolerate that kind of behavior from law enforcement…”

    If, as the commenter is asserting, Gretna police were probably only closing the causeway to large numbers of black pedestrians, and wealthy white people on foot in small groups were likely being let through, would that be better, or worse? Just asking.

    Leaving aside the government aspects for a minute, spare some thought for the hotel owners that locked their doors on their guests, with both emergency shelters closed and no buses, after calmly pocketing $25,000 of their guests’ money and not returning it. Apparently the hospitality sector is not our friend either, Perry.

  • timk

    Perhaps this story is “fake but accurate”. Even so arming a panicked mob with guns, especially if the purpose is to “deal with” any authorities that the mob deems to be obstructing, makes a bad situation much worse.

    With all communication channels broken, mobs create rumors and panic spreads easily. A panicking mob with guns… not a good idea.

  • Dale Amon

    after calmly pocketing $25,000 of their guests’ money and not returning it. Apparently the hospitality sector is not our friend either, Perry.

    Ah, cough,cough.The hotel didn’t pocket the money. The State commandeered (stole) the busses these people paid for to get them out of Dodge.

  • Bush spoke at New Orleans airport, on Friday, Sept. 2: (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/02/national/nationalspecial/02BUSH-NOTEXT.html?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1126203723-P7YZFIW6BXRQV01kqYQtgw)

    “The people in this part of the world have got to understand — and by the way, we just came from the 17th Street levee. A lot of folks are working hard to repair that levee…”

    Need to work on that Googling, a bit, there.

    Also, the standard civilian mistake in the nomenclature of army rations aside, all MRE retort packs have an inner aluminum lining. I’ve never heard of them being barred from air travel because they might set off the detectors, but it wouldn’t surprise me that much.

  • Bruce R,

    I wasn’t commenting on the moral dimensions of sheriffs actions but merely on the implausibility of the scenario evolving as described. Middle-class white American simple are not intimidated by the police in the same way that poor African-Americans are. It would not occur to middle-class white people that the police would actually shoot them for trying to escape a disaster zone.

    I find it totally implausible that a thin line of police officers could stop a hundred or so middle-class people from walking across the bridge and dragging a tail of everyone else behind them.

  • Pat Berry

    “If the population turned back at the bridge was comprised largely of tourist, it wouldn’t have been a largely African-American crowd but would have been mostly white people.”

    I’m not sure I follow the logic here. Is Shannon saying that there are no black tourists? Why would that be?

  • Sage

    I’m with Pat Berry on this one. Cars being “hotwired” by amateur Indiana Joneses in every direction, the helicopter-as-concussion-device bit, the fluency in racial “code words,” the unremittingly evil bad guys, and heart-warming renditions of tiny fragile structures being erected by sheer triumph of the human spirit? The insistence that once people’s basic needs are taken care of (by government officials, naturally), love and brotherhood will spontaneously–and effciently!–erput?

    Sorry, but it sounds like the script of a mini-series, the kind you might expect to see if it was written by a contributor to, say, the Socialist Worker or something.

    I’m going to believe this one when evidence for it is overwhelming, and not before.

  • ian

    My link to the NY Times article was more as a pointer to what seems to be a climate of indifference not as directly linked to the original post

  • “Is Shannon saying that there are no black tourists?”

    Not at all. The population of NO is 67% african-american. The evacuation almost certainly skewed that percentage upwards. The tourist population probably reflects the American racial makeup which has African-Americans at around 12%. If the people on the bridge and especially if the people at the head of the column were in fact tourist then it is highly likely that most of them are not African-American.

    Secondly, tourist tend to be upper income. So if we read the narrative directly we get a scene with a column of refugees headed by a largely white group of upper income white people confronting a handful of sheriffs deputies. There is no way they would be cowed by a show of force as described.

    I think the people turned back on the bridge were not tourist but local residents almost all of whom are poor African-Americans.

  • ah

    I’ve been thinking about incentives. The incentives in the N.O. lesson are
    1. Keep alert, and, especially, leave if The State tells you to leave. This is the only time to be acquiescent. Maybe even leave before they get around to telling you.
    2. As things get worse, opportunities disappear. Self-help will be prohibited (self-help will be indistinguishable from crime.).
    3. Do not let the state herd you with groups of people who do not understand self-help and reciprocal responsibility and thinking on their feet. The risk of isolation or self-organization is a lesser risk than being thrown in with the helpless and ignorant with no means of protecting or differentiating yourself.
    4. Preparation of mind and resources is vital. Where that falls short, calm courage, ingenuity, and resilience are everything.
    5. Never, ever, throw your lot in with teeming humanity when things are bad, unless you are already a toughminded saint and intend to martyr yourself for them. That is more likely than your helping them.

  • Pat Berry

    “Bush spoke at New Orleans airport, on Friday, Sept. 2.”

    I stand corrected. And, since he said “I’m going to fly out of here in a minute,” his plane must have landed there. Odd that the White House press archives have nothing about this. And I did a Google Images search to try to find the photos from this “photo op”, but came up empty. As BruceR points out, I obviously have some things to learn about Google searches.

    I’m still dubious about the story. I don’t think it’s a “standard civilian mistake” to refer to MREs as C-rations; civilians would be more likely to not know what to call them. I think it’s more likely that the story was written by a Vietnam-era veteran whose terminology is out of date. But that’s just a guess.

    One thing I would like to see investigated is the tale of the commandeered buses. Someone should ask these paramedics whose buses they chartered and then contact that company for confirmation of the story. If this really happened, the company that owns those buses would certainly be aware that they never came back, and perhaps even know where they are now.

  • llamas

    Also – allowing for the charitable assumption that the authors of this piece are merely unclear and it was actually Baton Rouge airport that they were airlifted out of – and not New Orleans – I cannot make their timeline fit the time that President Bush was at Baton Rouge with Air Force One. Maybe someone smarter than me can extract more clarity from the account than I can.

    The C-rations vs MRE anomaly may be mere confusion. The bulk boxes that MRE’s come in carry a large crescent symbol (the Quartermaster logo) which looks very much like the letter C. What I find more unlikely is that a truck lost two pallets of MRE’s and either didn’t notice or decided to let them go.

    A standard pallet of MRE’s is 48 cases, 24 meals per case, each case weighing 22#, so a pallet weighs 1100# and contains 1152 meals. We’re supposed to believe that a truck lost 2300 rations, weighing over a ton, and they just let it go by? Even if they were the UGRS pallets (a standard pallet split in two), the numbvers are still silly high. Not quite buying it . . . . .

    MRE pouches are made of multi-layered aluminized foil and definitely will set off airport metal detectors.

    Pick away. There’s plenty of detailed claims which should be easy to verify. FWIW, I think it’s a compilation of events, all having some element of truth to them, but artfully strung together to present the image most in line with the political opinions of the authors.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Dale:

    The point is that the hotels still reportedly put all their clients out on the streets, with nowhere to go, even after their buses didn’t show. Assuming that’s confirmed, me, I’d like to know the names of those hotel chains, so I can avoid them for the rest of my life.

    Shannon:

    I encourage you to read the account of the Scheers in the St. Louis paper linked above, and how the group of 200 guests from the Monteleone Hotel they were with (presumably the same group) was specifically turned away by police at the Gretna roadblock (“They [police] told us the bridge was closed to foot traffic.”) That’s four witnesses so far: as implausible as it sounds to you, it seems well over a hundred “middle-class people” were stopped from walking across a bridge to safety by police. The only difference was instead of then camping on the freeway, the Scheers took to the backroads to dodge the cops and escape. Why did they have to resort to that, is the question.

  • Dale Amon

    It is appearing (thus far) that fact checking and search for second soruces is for the most part corrobarating the story. We’ve got the bridge incident corrobrated from both sides of the bridge; one side corroborates the gunfire; we’ve got the EMS conference on the right date, we’ve got the bus story looking like it tally’s with the same group of people as in the news story. We do not as yet have any corroboration of the highway incidents. President Bush was at the airport in the right time frame.

    It is still early days on this story. I am sure there will be a lot more turn up.

    As Adriana says in her BBC4 appearance, Blogs are a conversation. We are in the midst of one right now. Although rather than conversation I would look at the blogosphere approah to things as more like a dog with a bone…

  • Drew Halfmann

    Here is a quote from Nagin in the Times-Picayune that corroborates the bridge part of the story.

    “Nagin’s ire began to rise anew as he recalled a foiled strategy to send able-bodied refugees over the Crescent City Connection to the high ground of the West Bank.

    “We were taking in people from St. Bernard Parish,” he said. “If we had a bottle of water, we shared it. Then when we were going to let people cross the bridge, they were met with frigging dogs and guns at the Gretna parish line. They said, ‘We’re going to protect Jefferson Parish assets.’

    http://www.nola.com/newslogs/tporleans/index.ssf?/mtlogs/nola_tporleans/archives/2005_09.html#076756

  • Scott

    This story stinks.

    A pallet of food *and* water conveniently fell off the back of a military truck in front of this group? Mmmkay… that was inexplicably convenient.

    Sheriff’s deputies firing over the heads of civilians without provocation? Hmmm… that’s a stretch, but I’m not completely disinclined to grant the possibility of it happening, however it seems highly improbable.

    But what’s truly galling is the accusation that *EVERY* member of the local and federal response teams are portrayed as callous and uncaring. Surely not every person in the employ of a govvie agency is without a soul?

  • Here’s another account from two more Monteleone Hotel survivors, turned away at the bridge, and definitely white: http://www.canada.com/fortstjohn/story.html?id=8d11be29-4fe0-46ac-ba38-18226d785fd3

    “Two Saskatchewan tourists stranded in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina joined a group of 100 visitors trudging to a highway in hopes of catching a ride away from a city thrust into chaos by water and wind.

    “Larry Mitzel of Saskatoon and his friend, Jill Johnson of La Ronge, on what had become a holiday in hell, walked 10 kilometres in a torrential downpour carrying all the belongings they could manage. When shots rang out, police told the group to turn back — they wouldn’t find a route to safety there.”

    Given that the detail of the concurrent rain is consistent, and their hotel is the same as the Scheers, it’s highly probable this is a couple more eyewitnesses of the same event, and the police roadblock is the same as in the other accounts.

  • freedom49

    Remember what our friends said during the meeting this week in D.C. We must convince Americans that they cannot rely on government at any level. We must forward our needs for repeal of the evil estate tax. We must keep attention away from the Supreme Court process. The 9/11 ceremonies this weekend will pacify Americans further and draw them away from New Orleans. We must focus the attention on Governor Barbour, who the Christian base will support in the 2008 national primary. We must keep Secretary Rice away from the south. She is too weak and timid, and like any woman, will collapse when faced with the slightest pressure. We must intensify our financing of certain blogs and publications to get out our message in cadence with our properties in the other mediums. Everything is being coordinated at the highest level, and you know to whom I refer. The highest level will carry out all necessary activities with ’06 and ’08 in mind.

  • llamas

    Sage wrote:

    ‘Cars being “hotwired” by amateur Indiana Joneses in every direction, . . . ‘

    I’m with Sage – another jarring note. Try ‘hotwiring’ any US automobile less than 10 years old. It can’t be done. You can bust the steering lock (if you happen to have a slide hammer or a large hand tools with you) and drive it with a screwdriver, or you can carry a spare ignition lock-and-key set and patch it in, but you can’t ‘hotwire’ a car today in the way that you could 25 years ago.

    I still have the ‘entry’ kit for automobiles that I was issued, almost 20 years ago. It’s a custom-made kit of tools and devices specifically made to get into cars and get them running. Some of the tools were designed and made for specific makes of cars. It’s an interesting curiosity these days – none of it works anymore. Tools, violence and skill are required to start a modern US automobile if you don’t have the keys.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Dale Amon

    I did not get the impression that the pallets ‘fell off’, but rather were assisted in their departure from the truck.

    As to the gunfire at the bridge, if you read back through the comments, that has been mulitply corroborated. I wonder if anyone had their digital camera handy? There must have been some in the crowd especially if a number of the people were tourists and convention goers.

  • Here’s another evicted hotel-guest witness of the cops at the bridge shooting: http://www.theoaklandpress.com/stories/090805/loc_2005090820.shtml

    “Hearing hot meals were being served over a bridge, the group [of tourists] was headed that way when they spotted thugs wielding golf clubs.

    “‘The locals said, ‘They’re letting the white people out,’ ‘ McCarthy recalled. ‘I felt very, very bad.'”

    “The group wasn’t all white, he reports. ‘We had people from Holland, Brazil, Turkey, Chile and Australia, and several African-Americans.’

    “As McCarthy’s group crossed the bridge, a police offi cer fired a shot over their heads. The group turned back and stayed overnight on the loading dock. McCarthy stuffed his credit cards in his sock. He learned later there had been a riot of some kind near the bridge.”

    Like the previous Saskatchewan story, it also confirms that the Monteleone Hotel evicted all its guests on Sept. 1, leaving them to sleep in the streets for a night before the buses finally arrived on Sept. 2.

  • Pat Berry

    Thanks, Shannon, for clarifying what you meant.

    In agreeing with me, Sage wrote: “I’m going to believe this one when evidence for it is overwhelming, and not before.” I don’t know that I’m holding out for OVEWHELMING evidence, but I’d like to see some independent confirmation of the facts before I buy into the story.

    Regarding the President’s visit to the New Orleans airport, I notice that the paramedics’ story is dated September 6, and it includes this statement: “We were finally airlifted out of New Orleans two days ago.” That would seem to indicate that the “Bush photo op” incident took place on September 4. But the NYT article establishes that the President’s visit to that airport was two days earlier, on September 2.

  • The Godfather

    Two things.

    #1. An inconsistency, the story claims that when the helicopter “buzzed” their encampment and drove them away, the sheriff “stole” their remaining food and water. Yet days later thier food was confiscated a second time as they went through security at the airport “days later” according to the story. So where did the second set of C rations (or MRE’s as another poster points out that C rations have been discontinued) come from?

    #2. I ran a Lexis-Nexis search and no metion of an encampment comes up in CNN, ABC, or CBS transcripts. Odds are that something being reported on the radio would have made its way onto television as well. Similarly, somebody, somewhere would have noticed a helicopter hovering over an encampment and would have reported on it. Finally along this line, if a group of people had found accessible dry ground to set up their own encampment in plain view, the media would have gotten over there to interview these people.

    Parts of this might be true here and there, but as a whole, this story is bogus.

  • Dale Amon

    The date of publication doesn’t necessarily mean that was when the words were written. It is close enough in time that I would not rule it out on that count. I sometimes write things and have them sit around for weeks before I finalize them… (My longest birthing essay was about three years coming :-)

    So yes, there is a slight mismatch, enough for questioning but not enough to rule it out.

  • ken burke

    katrina victims complained that rescuers were slow and uncaring and the response pointed out that victims had things they can do to help themselves and in some cases those things were not pursued. this story hits on all topics and is too perfect to not be contrived: the evil authorities, racism, elitism, disregard for the elderly and the very young, and for the victims obvious self-reliance. and it mixes in plenty of heartstrings. made for TV.

  • The original story claimed to have been written on Sunday, Sept. 4 (see the third paragraph). They say they were lifted out of New Orleans two days before, which would be Friday, Sept. 2, the same day as the Bush visit.

  • Pat Berry

    Dale wrote: “I did not get the impression that the pallets ‘fell off’, but rather were assisted in their departure from the truck.”

    Well, here’s what the paramedics actually wrote: “A mile or so down the freeway, an army truck lost a couple of pallets of C-rations on a tight turn. ” So it’s a single pallet, and they claim it left the truck without assistance. In fact, considering that it would have weighed over a ton and was being slung off as the truck rounded a turn, I would say that “flew off” is a more appropriate phrase than “fell off”.

    Like Scott, I find this claim hard to believe. In addition to the “how conveeenient!” element of the story, I’m having trouble visualizing how it would happen. Cargo lost on a tight turn would be flung off sideways. Was this a flatbed truck of some kind? Does the Army really use that sort of vehicle to transport food? I don’t know anything about military vehicles, so maybe they do. But I know that any civilian organization would use an enclosed truck for cargo like that.

  • BD

    A minor point… but the issue with the MREs isn’t that they will set of metal detectors. It’s that the flameless ration heaters (water activated) produce a lot of heat which might not be safe in an airliner’s cargo hold. The heaters themselves are so labeled, indicating that they are not allowed on commercial flights unless they are still sealed inside the brown plastic MRE pouch with the rest of the MRE.

    As for bringing an MRE on an airliner, I carried parts and pieces of several home with me from a military exercise in June with no problem.

  • aron

    A few nights ago on our local cable news channel, a reporter was interviewing the Jefferson Parrish sheriff about why his personnel prevented a Convention Center crowd from crossing the bridge into Jefferson Parrish. His answer was literally that he didn’t want “those people” coming into his county and that the convention center was the “best place” for them. It was clear he wasn’t talking about criminals or dangerous individuals; he just didn’t like the thought of his suburbs becoming overwhelmed by even more refugees and was quite emotional about it.

    I see no link to this interview on their website but I have no doubt it occurred. The man they identified as the sheriff was a rather heavyset fellow with sleepy eyes, and sounded a bit like Buford T. Justice, which is one of the many reasons it stuck in my memory.

  • Pat Berry

    Here’s another part of the story that struck me as odd when I reread it just now:

    “From a woman with a battery powered radio we learned that the media was talking about us. Up in full view on the freeway, every relief and news organizations saw us on their way into the City. Officials were being asked what they were going to do about all those families living up on the freeway? The officials responded they were going to take care of us. Some of us got a sinking feeling. ‘Taking care of us’ had an ominous tone to it.

    Unfortunately, our sinking feeling (along with the sinking City) was correct. Just as dusk set in, a Gretna Sheriff showed up, jumped out of his patrol vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces, screaming, “Get off the fucking freeway”. A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck with our food and water.”

    Okay, let me make sure I am reading this right. “Every relief and news organizations” is watching their camp. So the cops decide to attack it, drive the refugees away, and then steal their food and water — “in full view” of all those cameras,. Are the authorities really that stupid? I suppose it’s possible. But if that is what happened, there must be numerous photographs and videotapes of the attack. Why have we not seen them?

    And how is it that the sherriff arrived in a “patrol vehicle”, but departed in a truck?

  • Dale Amon

    When I say my impression was assisted fallng off, what I meant was that places where vehicles are forced to slow down for tight turns is the best place to wait in order to relieve them of some of their cargo.

  • Pat Berry

    BD writes: “A minor point… but the issue with the MREs isn’t that they will set of metal detectors.”

    But the paramedics claim that the metal detector DID go off: “Most of us had not eaten all day because our C-rations had been confiscated at the airport because the rations set off the metal detectors.”

    C-rations would indeed have done this, because they contained metal cans. But the Army doesn’t use C-rations any more.

  • Pat Berry

    BruceR writes: “The original story claimed to have been written on Sunday, Sept. 4 (see the third paragraph). They say they were lifted out of New Orleans two days before, which would be Friday, Sept. 2, the same day as the Bush visit.”

    Yeah, you’re right about that. So they did pass through the airport on the same day as the President. Thanks for setting me straight.

  • I’ve seen the army/guard using flatbeds for transporting all sorts of stuff here in San Antonio, as well as at other various locales, so that’s plausible, at least. However, if a couple of palletes weighing a total of about a ton were to fall off a truck, I can’t imagine the driver wouldn’t notice.

    Assuming the force threw both from the same side, that’s going to unbalance the load on the trailer, and going to change the way the truck drives. Perhaps causing the trailer to slide, given presumably slippery conditions. It would also be unlikely that a bunch of MREs weren’t strapped down. I’m getting the feeling that this is one of those stories compiled from true events but not a singular incident.

    1) There was an EMS Conference (presumably the authors could’ve attended).

    2) We know that cops were turning people away at the bridge, and we know they fired warning shots at some of them.

    3) We know the hotel kicked guests out on Sept. 1.

    4) We know Bush was in NO on Sept. 2.

    So it looks like, to me at least, that the story was pieced together and embellished to get a political point across. But, even if the things described (although I have serious doubts about the whole C-ration, Helicopter, and tent-city bit) happened to different groups, it’s still awful.

  • Bruce R,

    Here is the bridge incident as described by Bradshaw et al.

    “As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander’s assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.

    We questioned why we couldn’t cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans.

    In the Scheers account, the police fire over peoples heads after they talk to people and after “the crowd becomes unruly” In Bradshaws account, the police fire over their heads as the people approach and before anybody can speak. Scheers say the bridge is closed to foot traffic but say nothing about the hysterical racist conversation that Brashaw reports.

    Like I said, its a real event to “enhanced” to make it seem so much worse by Brashaw. He’s intentionally inflaming an already bad situation for political gain.

  • Dale Amon

    I think the point made was that MRE’s will set off metal detectors but that is not why they will, if opened up, not be allowed on an aircraft.

    As to the hotwiring of cars… the terminology may well be obsolete, but living here in Belfast I am more than familiar with the abilities of the local young joy riders to bypass all the protections on cars and steal them. A teenage delinquint of the appropriate skills could quite easily help them get cars running.

    If this is actually not the case, then I must have imagined the cars stolen from the lot of my previous tech venture, or the stolen jeep which ran rampant last year through the parking lot of the flats where where I live…

  • another Kevin

    Another part of the story that rings false is that their rations, C or otherwise, would have been confiscated at the airport. Yes, we have metal detectors at the airport, but ones that you walk through. People are definitely allowed to bring metal objects on the plane, as long as they are sent through the x-ray machines.

  • Pat Berry

    Dale writes: “When I say my impression was assisted fallng off, what I meant was that places where vehicles are forced to slow down for tight turns is the best place to wait in order to relieve them of some of their cargo.”

    Thanks for the clarification. I’m afraid I don’t find that scenario very plausible, though. Unless I’m overlooking something, that would require a group of people to stand two to three feet away from passing freeway traffic and wait for an open-bed truck to pass by with an unsecured load. Then they would reach out, pick up a two-ton pallet of food from a moving vehicle, and walk away with it.

    (I won’t say that this feat is impossible, but I’ll have to see it reenacted on “Mythbusters” before I can believe it actually happened.)

    These would have to be very brave people, since they would be stealing FROM THE U.S. ARMY in an area under martial law, where (according to the paramedics) the authorities were already operating under shoot-to-kill orders.

  • From AP News this morning:

    ATLANTA (AP) – A man who fled Louisiana with his family to
    escape Hurricane Katrina has been jailed in Atlanta for asking
    motorists for handouts.
    James Scott says he had slept in a car for days with his
    brother, sister and her two young children before they decided to
    ask for help.
    Nearly broke, the family drove to Buckhead, an affluent north
    Atlanta neighborhood and got out near a shopping mall, hoping for
    the charity of others.
    Scott says he showed the arresting officer his Louisiana
    driver’s license, car tag and registration and asked him if he
    could feel his pain. Scott says another officer gave him seven
    dollars as he was taken to jail.
    An Atlanta police spokesman says it’s legal to solicit on a
    public sidewalk, but not in traffic.

  • Not Now

    In addition to issues over “c-rations” and “hotwiring cars”, isn’t it strange that two emergency medical personnel could wander around a disaster area and never offer their services to anyone, nor apparently perform any aid for anyone?

    All the EMT’s and other emergency persons that I’ve read or heard from can’t help but tell me about the “old man with his feet soaking wet” or the “girl with scalp wounds from flying debris” or other such things. Yet these two individuals did nothing along those lines?

    And no names of any sort. Not even to memorialize the lost; survivors of various “camps” from the 1930’s and 1940’s and 1950’s made a point to remember those persons that were with them, yet these two persons didn’t bother to name a single one of their companions?

    This looks like “agitprop”, increasingly, and the Communists were masters of the art of stiching various true, real events together into a garment of untruth that served their purposes. Now, where do these people work, again?

  • Surely, Pat, if we’ve learned anything these last four years, it’s that the reasons airport security screeners give for confiscating anything are rooted in a different reality from our own.

    The “patrol vehicle/truck” was probably an SUV, which could easily be described as both. And given the state of New Orleans at the time, I’d say the chances of police action uninterrupted by media oversight would be pretty darn high in the early evening. On the evening of Sept. 1, no media were likely driving IN to New Orleans.

    I’m not saying the account isn’t melodramatized… the majority of the account centres on the events of only one day, Sept. 1, from being evicted from the hotel in the morning, to being evicted from their expressway camp after dusk that night. But there’s enough corroboration already to be certain about at least a couple of things: that the hotels abandoned their guests to the streets despite no buses arriving; and that Gretna police fired into the air to prevent New Orleanians, white and black, from leaving the city throughout Sept. 1. The only significant unproved accusation here is that a lone policeman dispersed an expressway encampment at gunpoint on the night of Sept. 1, and repossessed their “looted” essentials.

    Personally, I don’t find that that unbelievable. We already have two verified accounts of policemen seizing a media photographer’s cameras and film, along with others of them siphoning gas from civilian cars, and expropriating personal vehicles from hotel parking garages. I can provide links if you want, but these things all very clearly happened. And in every case, there were undoubtedly extenuating circumstances due to the crisis… if I were a police officer, and I thought a bunch of “looters” were blocking a major expressway, I’d even be tempted to clear them out the same way. Doesn’t make it right in this case, though.

    This kind of thing (police stymieing local self-help attempts of various kinds) probably happened a lot… the only difference is this one was better documented because a number of tourists were involved.

  • Steve

    I can state without equivocation that this account is fabricated. Elements of it are “based on true events”, as the movies might say, but the authors have clearly invented it. Their political affiliations, discussed above, explain their reasons. Socialists have always said anything to advance their cause — the whole movement is predicated on crucial falsehoods, anyway.

    People have noted multiple critical fallacies in the timeline and logistics of this story, and its strange similarity to another tale circulating. Read above.

    I would add that (1) based on the number of individuals involved and standard probabilities in corroborating stories (I am a private investigator), we can expect that 100 people, at least, would corroborate this story substantially, and several should already have told it independently in other outlets. This has not occurred. (2) The highway in reference was under near-constant television observation by multiple networks, I for one was watching constantly and observed none of what the authors describe. (3) In particular, and here I may be in error, Fox News’ Shepard Smith was on this highway for at least part of the period under description. He would have observed this group, to say nothing of hearing this story.

    The blogger should post an update indicating this is a myth. The hardworking police and Guard, notwithstanding mistakes they probably did make, don’t need this sh!t.

  • Shannon, the differing accounts of the bridge only reinforce each other, if you timeline them with the shooting as the single act that everyone is going to remember here. Picture a disorganized straggling of tourists in small groups towards a police roadblock on the bridge. The Scheers are among the first to get there, try to reason with the police, are joined by angry local inhabitants wielding golf clubs who start citing the race card, and then police fire to disperse the crowd. Then, bringing up the tail end just as the crowd starts to scatter come Bradshaw et al, who again try to reason with the police to let them by, and the now heated-up Gretna cops say a couple stupid (if revealing) things.

  • Pat Berry

    BruceR: You’re right, the patrol vehicle could have been an SUV. I hadn’t thought of that possibility.

    And I have no trouble believing that law enforcement personnel did many reprehensible things in New Orleans during the last week. From what I’ve been reading in recent days, it’s been common knowledge for years that the N.O. police force was rife with corruption.

    I’m even ready to concede that parts of the paramedics’ account are true, but the story as a whole is not believable. For example, you wrote: “I’d say the chances of police action uninterrupted by media oversight would be pretty darn high in the early evening. On the evening of Sept. 1, no media were likely driving IN to New Orleans.” But it’s the paramedics themselves who claim that there WAS media scrutiny. They say: “From a woman with a battery powered radio we learned that the media was talking about us. Up in full view on the freeway, every relief and news organizations saw us on their way into the City. Officials were being asked what they were going to do about all those families living up on the freeway?” Yet apparently, when the camp was attacked, none of those media folks managed to capture the event on film or videotape. That’s just not plausible.

    You also wrote: “The only significant unproved accusation here is that a lone policeman dispersed an expressway encampment at gunpoint on the night of Sept. 1, and repossessed their “looted” essentials.” Actually, the paramedics claim that he was backed up by a helicopter, which deliberately used its propwash to destroy the camp and drive the refugees away. That would make for some pretty spectacular video footage, wouldn’t it? But strangely, there seems to be none.

    All I’m saying is that SOME part of this story is false. Either the attack never happened — or the media weren’t actually watching, even though the paramedics claim otherwise.

  • GWH

    download abc news nightline program’s podcast

    http://a.abcnews.com/podcast/050905ntl.mp3

    and fast forward about 11 or 12 minutes and hear mayor nagin describe the sheriff and deputies “gaurding” the foot of the bridge, and hear the sheriff defend himself.

  • Someone in your comment list has added a URL without specifying an html link and the margins are so messed up I’m not even going to bother to read the post. I just don’t have time to horizontally scroll back and forth with each line. I’ll check later to see if the offending post has been fixed or deleted.

    What the deuce is wrong with these people, that they’d post a big honkin’ URL instead of creating a link? Sheesh!

  • Steve:

    So far we have seven independent tourist accounts of shots being fired on the expressway (in addition to the two EMS techs, the Scheers, Larry Mitzel, Jill Johnson, and McCarthy), plus apparent confirmation higher in this thread from an actual Gretna resident that it happened.

    On the highways, you are in error, I’m afraid. Shepard Smith and the rest of the media didn’t report from the Pontchartrain Expressway. They reported from the I-10 Expressway, significantly north and east of the location in question, which was the major refugee exodus route.

  • Regarding the theory that this account was made up from other news:

    Although the cops at the bridge turning back refugees at gunpoint has been widely reported, I haven’t seen them identified as being from Gretna is those other stories. And there was that cop apologist who posted here earlier confirming that they were from Gretna (albeit police and not sherriff’s deputies).

  • Tom

    It seems to me that we are getting close to the truth here. The incident on the bridge probably occured, but all traffic was being stopped, not just blacks – in other words, the racial angle featured so prominantly in the orginal story was not a major factor. I suspect that the two EMS techs involved viewed all of their experiences in N.O. through the lens of their socialist ideology, and are emphasizing certain points for maximum political effect.

    I have gone though similar experiences with liberal friends, only to find that their interpretation and “memories” of the event in question were very different than mine. I would be interested to hear how others, with different political viewpoints, viewed these same events…

  • The blogger should post an update indicating this is a myth. The hardworking police and Guard, notwithstanding mistakes they probably did make, don’t need this sh!t.

    And if it is proved to be false, rest assured I shall indeed make that widely known! However so far that has NOT been proved to be the case. In fact, several of the facts have been corroborated. Now it may well be that the tone of the account is coloured by the far left sensibilities of the authors and it may also be that their politics colour their interpretation of what they saw and why it happened… but that is a long way from making what they wrote a ‘myth’ (though I think ‘lie’ would be the appropriate term).

    But like I said in an earlier comment, if this account turns out to be mostly a series of fabrications (or even a series of anecdotes rather than the eye-witness account it purports to be), I most certainly will make that fact known in a new article! I do not buy the idea of ‘true in essence': it is either based on facts that happened and where witnessed by the authors… or it wasn’t!

  • Hey, let’s start naming names here, instead of blaming faceless “cops.” The police in question blocking people from entering Gretna and Jefferson Parish would have reported to Jefferson Parish sheriff Harry Lee, who reports in turn to Jefferson Parish president Aaron Broussard, both of whom have been on the news frequently.

    From the SF chronicle (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/09/06/MNG07EJ2F11.DTL):

    “About 70 percent of the population [of Jefferson Parish] is white, and nearly 23 percent is black, according to the 2000 census…

    “Jefferson Parish’s divide between races and classes was evident in those who returned to check on their homes — whites — and those who were noticeably absent — blacks.

    “Much of Jefferson Parish’s black community had been evacuated to the Houston Astrodome on buses and had no means of returning.

    “‘They bused people out of the city, and now they don’t have a way to get back,’ said [Journell] Henry, who is black.”

    It’s clear Broussard and Lee wanted the reported violence and mayhem of New Orleans to be stopped at the parish line Sept. 1. Their side of the river may have been more affluent and more white, but they’d been hit hard, too. Anyway, the main evacuation route was the I-10, leading to less stricken areas farther north.

    The big instigator of all this was the unnamed New Orleans police captain who wanted the tourists off his station’s lawn after they had been locked out of their hotel rooms, so he directed them to the only bridge out within walking distance. He may have honestly thought the Jefferson cops would let the tourists through… who knows?

  • AST

    This is nothing but libertarians trying to score political points! (Kidding)

    Government isn’t our friend, our master, our parent, our therapist, our law firm, our sugar daddy or our banker. And its definitely NOT our fairy-godmother.

    Most conservatives and libertarians aren’t all that upset about the federal response to the Katrina disaster, because they’re usually surprised when it does work well. But they are pretty sick of the frenzy of blame and demanding that heads roll, coming from people who are secure in their own jobs and have no responsibility in this situation, (except Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin, who do have responsibility but are busily engaged in contradicting each other and trying to excuse their own inaction).

    Now, where do I go to collect my $2,000?

  • JJ

    So the basic premise of this is that an EMS convention was in New Orleans at the same time that the largest natural disaster in our history struck and the emergency responders responded with an intricate plan of fleeing?

  • Midwesterner

    JJ, bear in mind, these were socialist emergency responders.

  • So they fled for the common good?

  • Regarding hearing nothing about this from Sheppard Smith on Fox, please note that in response to the question “why don’t they just let them leave?” Smith responded that survivors attempting to cross the I-10 bridge into Jefferson parish were being turned back at gunpoint.

    Perhaps all y’all can dedicate some of those crack investigative skills towards the multiple, corroborated, documented accounts of desperate refugees forced back in to New Orleans at gunpoint?

  • jreid

    Do any of the other tourist reports confirm something as dramatic as the helicopter and the confiscation of the food and water?

    If not I think we could call this bogus.

  • cheeflo

    “We organized ourselves and the 200 of us set off for the bridge with great excitement and hope. As we marched pasted the convention center, many locals saw our determined and optimistic group and asked where we were headed. We told them about the great news. Families immediately grabbed their few belongings and quickly our numbers doubled and then doubled again. Babies in strollers now joined us, people using crutches, elderly clasping walkers and others people in wheelchairs. We marched the 2-3 miles to the freeway and up the steep incline to the Bridge. It now began to pour down rain, but it did not dampen our enthusiasm.”

    I am trying to imagine babies in strollers, people using crutches and elderly clasping walkers marching 2-3 miles to anywhere, let alone up a steep incline.

    Also, beginning with a group of 200, doubling to 400 and then doubling again to 800, how is it that all these people managed to maintain a steady pace and a cohesive group? I know the numbers are estimates, but we’re still talking about a large number of people, are we not?

    The description of their little encampment makes me think of the Swiss Family Robinson or Gilligan’s Island. Has any of this shown up on film?

    Where did they get shopping carts to ferry the C-rations back to camp?

    And how could you repeatedly see this “cooperation, community, and creativity” flowering when mobility was so limited — just how much ground can you cover in a large group, on foot, over a couple of days?

    I don’t believe this story — it just doesn’t ring true.

  • Knemon

    know that the state (in the form of law enforcement) is not their friend.

    – Only in that form?

  • JJ

    http://abclocal.go.com/wabc/story?section=forecast&id=3396895

    Good to see that some of the EMS workers at that convention tried to help rather than flee.

  • Dale Amon

    And how could you repeatedly see this “cooperation, community, and creativity” flowering when mobility was so limited — just how much ground can you cover in a large group, on foot, over a couple of days?

    Go back and read again. That statement was referring to their short lived encampment near the bridge.

    We so far have corroborating data that there was an EMS conference; people from the conference were staying in the hotel at which the bus event occurred; people were left outside by the hotel; there were shots fired at the bridge and there was a crowd there which was a mix of people trying to get to a refugee center.
    President Bush was at the airport on the day that corresponds to the timeline in the story.

  • Jeremy

    While some of this does sound awful, bear in mind, if you actually watched the news when this happened, most notably Fox, you could have seen much of this on live TV. At least there were government relief workers simply ignoring 100s of people on the highway. And the bit about people trying to leave but being turned back at gunpoint. Shephard Smith was about as upset as I’ve ever seen a reporter.

    While this article is somewhat slanted, it does seem to bear out what really happened.

  • Okay, it might be a little clearer if you have a map to refer to:

    map

    You can see the Superdome on the left, and the bridge in question on the bottom right. The techs’ hotel was near the Walgreen’s at Royal and Iberville (up near the “map” button” at the top of the image). They then say they walked down to the police command centre at Harrah’s casino (big green roofed building close to river). Getting no love there they walked past the convention centre (even bigger silver roof, just north of the bridge) and were turned back at the foot of the bridge, so they pitched camp on Highway 90 (not the I-10, which is the highway crossing the top left corner).

    The whole distance they on the 1st would have been less than 2 km straight-line, although with sidetracks and street corners you could well have walked 2 or 3 miles that day following their route. As for those with walkers and baby carriages, they’d have come out of the Convention Centre, and not have had very far to walk at all to get to the bridge.

    BTW, not all of the EMS techs at the same convention stayed with the tourist group. See here, another story which confirms the initial EMS account up as far as their first attempt to pitch camp at Harrah’s, where they split off from the rest of the group to work with police — and felt horribly horribly guilty about it.

  • 74

    About the food: There ARE NO sharp turns on a freeway–after all they are designed for high speed motoring. No Army/National Guard truck would be transiting on its own in this situation. They would be convoying with escort vehicles that would stop the truck if it lost cargo.

    Firing into the air is not evil. Firing into the air ensures that people have your attention. In a volitile situation, this can help save lives.

    The president usually flys into the nearest military field (where security is better) rather than civilian facilities. Although I don’t know for sure, my guess is that he flew to Naval Air Station JRB New Orleans which is a different facility than the Louis Armstrong International Airport.

  • I don’t know whether the story is true or not, but one bit strikes me:

    If the relief organizations had saturated the City with food and water in the first 2 or 3 days, the desperation, the frustration and the ugliness would not have set in.

    I wonder if the author is aware that the Red Cross had trucks ready to roll on Day 1, but Louisiana authorities turned them away specifically in order to make the conditions at the Superdome and the Convention Center worse. Yes, the authorities wanted things to stay awful for the refugees. Sound like tinfoil? It’s the truth. See, apparently they worried that if life in the Superdome was actually slightly tolerable, people would never leave. So they denied food and water to the refugees. It’s repulsive. Worse than that, it’s a humanitarian crime.

    I’ve been drowning in cold fury for almost 24 hours now.

  • It is also helpful to place the EMS story in the correct timeline. The Superdome was closed to evacuees on Wednesday, Aug. 31, which is when the Convention Centre started to fill up.

    The EMS techs’ day of confrontations was Thursday, Sept. 1. The first media on the scene at the convention centre, Tony Zumbado, had first reported on the growing crisis there that same morning. Later that same day, FEMA head Brown said he’d had no idea about the convention centre also being a shelter until he heard it on the news. Any makeshift “camp” on the adjoining freeway that afternoon would just have been lumped in as part of the whole convention centre tableau.

    The day after all that (the day most of the tourists seem to have finally got out) was Sept. 2, when Bush made his New Orleans visit, and Geraldo and Shepard Smith made their angry remarks about there STILL not being help at the convention centre, and the bride into Jefferson still being blocked by the Jefferson cops.

    The three undeniable facts here are that local police from the neighboring, affluent-but-storm-stricken parish were actively keeping evacuees bottled up in downtown New Orleans from at least Sept. 1 on, that New Orleans’ own police force was unable to provide useful assistance to anyone by that point, and yet New Orleans hoteliers inexplicably thought pitching their guests out on the street that was a good idea. Everything else is just quibbling over details.

  • Tom Vaughan

    This is bogus.

    Huge crates fall off military trucks in movies. A lot. Today’s military, however, is pretty good at keeping huge crates actually in the truck and even then tend to notice it if FALLS out

    The “c-rations” mistake is NOT common in civilians, particularly a large group where the proper reference would eventually catch on. It says “MRE” on the bag.

    And a EMS site breaks this remarkable story?

    And the National Guard soldier happens to mention Bush has half the unit in Iraq so they can’t do their job? Since when did the National Guard start splitting up their platoons for overseas duty? “Half of you stay, half of you go”?

    A few true stories rolled up to make one big lie. It broke my heart when I first read it, even though it didn’t quite sound quite right!

    Now it makes me angry for a completely different reason.

  • If this is true, and based on Kevin’s statements I deem it is, then Chief Lawson blocked a public road being used by American citizens on their way to shelter, the effect of which was to keep them exposed to deadly danger.

    I have been a reliable Republican voter for all my voting life (94-04); I am libertarian in economics and even conservative over many issues (abortion, embryonic stem cells, marriage). And I am furious.

    If this wasn’t a Rosewood-scale crime against humanity, what is? Lawson (and probably Mayor Harris as well) ought to go before a grand jury, if not the full Nuremberg.

  • Two posts above: “The “c-rations” mistake is NOT common in civilians…”

    From Tony Zumbado’s report, the media report that first told the world about the growing hellhole of the convention centre:

    “They are just left behind. There’s nothing offered to them. No water. No ice. No C-rations. Nothing for the last four days…”

  • Old Jack Tar

    About the food: There ARE NO sharp turns on a freeway

    I rather took his remark about that to mean they ‘helped themselves’ to the food off the back of a truck, not that it literally ‘fell off’. Certainly in the UK the expression “It fell off the back of a lorry” (lorry being the UK term for truck) means “it was stolen”.

    By the way, there is a new article(Link) on Samizdata about this story (rather than about the events of this story)

  • Yo

    I absolutely, positively am astonished there is actually a major site on the World Wide Web that still thinks light text on a dark background is even remotely legible.

    Rest of comment deleted by admin as it is off-topic… BTW, so just select the print version, which is black-and-white. Plus I find white-on-blue quite easy to read.

  • Bruce, and Perry, you’re really desperate to believe this.

    In classical logic, it is the responsibility of the one making the claim or charge to support it.

    The complete absence of names in the two socialist journalists’ account (that you persist in calling the EMS techs’ account) is… interesting. Of course, socialists don’t sweat names because they only care about people, excuse me, the masses, in the abstract. And names make them rather, er, concrete.

    You probably don’t notice it, Bruce, but you take the classiic conspiracy-theorist’s approach to this story. When a detail is conclusively disproven, you dismiss it as not important. When a detail is shown to be highly unlikely, you rationalize a new and strange way for it to be possible… if… only…

    To me, one key passage is the one in which the guardsmen say that half their unit is in Iraq. I suppose most of the posters here have never served in the military, or in the Guard. But as many have pointed out, units go as units. Also, of the LA guard, as again has been noted, ONE UNIT, the 141st FA, is in Iraq. That’s 3,700 Guardsmen who don’t have a specialty particulary applicable to disaster relief (no jokes about shelling the survivors, please). About twice as many Guard soldiers remained in Louisiana — that’s about 1/3 deployed. More than 40,000 Guardsmen and -women are on duty in the hurricane are (they’re not all from LA — in fact, they’re from all 50 states).

    Deployment of other states’ Guardsmen was delayed because Governor Blanco did not sign the order authorizing out of state Guard into LA to help until this week (Tues? Weds?).

    Rumsfeld: “More than 58,000 active duty and National Guard personnel are on the ground and in the area. More than 41,000 of that 58,000 are members of the National Guard from all 50 states and are working, of course, hurricane relief operations. ”

    Source: http://www.defenselink.mil/transcripts/2005/tr20050906-secdef3862.html [DOD transcript]

    Download the matching briefing slides here: http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Sep2005/d20050906slide.pdf

    Yeah, the troops can’t help because they’re all working for Halliburton, processing cuddly puppies directly to pollution with no industrial by-product.

    If this were a court of law where the “falso in unum” standard applies, we’d have a directed verdict at this point.

  • silverpie

    I’m in the minority that actually finds light-on-dark more readable than classical text on a computer screen (although my preferred combination is 80% gray on Pantone Violet–that’s #cccccc on #6600a1 in html-speak). What always bugs me more, though, is the imposition of sans-serif fonts over my browser’s preference for serif. Whatever happened to the idea that the server presents information and the browser formats it???

    Anyway, back on topic:
    “An Atlanta police spokesman says it’s legal to solicit on a public sidewalk, but not in traffic.”
    As it should be–if you’ve seen Atlanta traffic, you know soliciting in it would be endangering a lot of people, not least the solicit-er.

    “know that the state (in the form of law enforcement) is not their friend.

    – Only in that form?”

    ::)! Just that that was the form it happened to take on the occasion.

  • Actually, I am in the military, but thanks for thinking I’m not, I guess. What I find remarkable, Kevin, is that you consider a couple privates driving around in a truck to be able to cite chapter and verse of DOD press releases.

    If it was my truck, and I was evacuating exasperated refugees, I’m certain I’d have made exactly the same excuse (“yeah, sorry, but half the guys are in Iraq, y’know”) and it would undoubtedly be taken the same way by them. That fact in no way impeaches anyone’s story here.

    I’m as much a fan of falsifying claims as the next person (evaluating the value of statements like this is kind of my professional occupation) but all there has been in this thread so far is ad hominem assertions (“ooh, socialists, you know they all lie;” “White people would never allow cops to treat them that way.”) and quibbles over the most irrelevant and unprovable minutiae. (“How exactly did the food fall off the truck?” Like the refugees who just got there are going to know that…) That, and a whole honking lot of corroborated detail to this point.

    I believe you meant “falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus,” Kevin, an impossible standard of proof only ever used in a court that I’ve seen by the O.J. Simpson jury. To expect perfect knowledge and recall from an eyewitness, or perfect evidence handling processes, is always a fool’s errand.

    Yes, it’s a melodramatized account, but the basic facts (tourists being thrown out into the street, and some trapped in New Orleans for over 24 hours in part by a defended roadblock at the Jefferson Parish line) are entirely corroborated. It would be more useful at this point to discuss the conditions under which that kind of action by the state is ever warranted.

    I can’t speak for Perry, but the difference between me and a conspiracy theorist is the theorist maintains his faith in an unfalsifiable assertion. And there are several ways this one’s still falsifiable… evidence people were allowed by police to cross over into Jefferson Parish in the Sept. 1 to Sept. 2 period; evidence of hotels allowing tourists to stay after the morning of Sept. 1; photo imagery of the freeway from Sept. 1 that doesn’t show a camp; etc. But right now this is best described as the obviously emotional testimony of two witnesses of average recall and reliability. To dismiss it as a whole-cloth fabrication at this point is a sign of bias obstructing one’s judgment.

  • cheeflo

    “This looks like “agitprop”, increasingly, and the Communists were masters of the art of stiching various true, real events together into a garment of untruth that served their purposes.” Agitprop — you nailed it, Not Now.

    After thinking longer about this article, I am struck by how it reminds me of Soviet propaganda that has all the peasants looking fat, happy and prosperous — all working together for the people!

    “When these basic needs were met, people began to look out for each other, working together and constructing a community.” A socialist paradise!

  • blah blah blah

    There is enough that sounds dubious in this story without quibbling about the use of “C-rations” vs. “MREs.” I know that listing off a preponderance of inconsistencies in order to debunk a story can be effective, especially when lacking any actual evidence, but PLEASE, people!

    Perhaps the writer chose to use “C-rations” (as did at least one journalist reporting the story) simply because he wanted to be understood by his readers. The general public is far more likely to know what a C-ration is than it is to know what an MRE is. (“MRE – isn’t that where they scan your brain?”) Sure, everyone on this particular site knows what an MRE is, but the demographic here is pretty knowledgeable of all things military (e.g., the exact weight of a pallet of MREs, for crying out loud), compared to, say, west-coast pacifists or soccer moms.

    And then there was the whole pointless debate about “hotwiring.” Again, please! I really hope you don’t think he meant the thieves were ducking under dashboards and sparking wires together, like Jim Rockford or Bo Duke. Don’t you think he meant they were STEALING them, and just chose to be colorful about it?

    Yes, the story seems implausible in many instances: MREs conveniently falling off a truck, no media witness to the bridge/helicopter incident, etc. But pointing to terminology like this and crying “foul!” just comes off as a desparate grasping of straws.

  • Jerry

    OK, some of the original story has been backed with factual accountability. But again, there are additions to this blog that have me concerned.
    1) MRE: Meal, ready to eat. A brown plastic bag with the notation of a cresent on it, also printed on the cover is the packaged meal ingredients. The MRE has actually 3 layers of material. This allows an MRE to be kept stored at room temperature for at the least 5 years. There is an ALUMINUM center lining to the MRE with a black inner lining. MOST MRE do not have any type of incindiary included to heat the meals. The meals as described are ready to eat, no heat.
    How do I know? I was with the 10th Mountain Div. 2/108, Alpha Co. I was also the company armorer and supply seargent.
    If the story of not allowing the meals into the airport has any validity, I beleive that it is safe to assume that the airport would allow them to eat the meals prior to departure. And also since this is a rescue event, the food would certainly be allowed on board since the airplane could possibly be bare of Beer Nuts and soda.
    2) The officer who had either driven into an encampment of survivors and stole their food. If this is a factual account, then the officer involved would immidiately be suspended or fired for their conduct. I would also expect the mayor of the town to make an immediate review of the issue and make at least an intra-office report of the issue. Which would then be available via the Freedom of Information Act.
    3) The mostly used vehicle used for transporting by the military is what is called a deuce and a half. Namley a 4 wheel vehicle that weighs 2 and a half tons. Now, with that in mind, a PALLET of MRE falling or being HELPED to fall to me is incredulous. Someone explain to me how they are going to move a pallet of the MRE off the truck if helped off???? The pallet weighs almost half the weight of the vehicle . Then there is the issue of SOUND?? Imagine if you would, a wood pallet with that amount of weight scraping across the floor of the vehicle? Not really hard to hear and certainly not easy to ignore. Each pallet has an assigned place to be sent to, if it does not arrive within a certain time frame it is questioned. Besides wouldnt the EMS crew who were BEHIND the vehicle not only have to avoid the objects , they certainly would have informed the driver of the Deuce 1/2.
    4) Military unit cohesion. There are cases where certain parts of a company, battalion or division are seperated and sent to other places. Case in fact: 10th Mountain Div., 222 Co.( also known as the tripple deuce) The personell that were sent to Iraq were the paper pushers while the remaining infantry personel were sent to Pakistan. How do I know? I was sent to Pakistan as part of the armory to help keep control of weapons found and to be destroyed. Secondly, my brother who is with another division( I will not name his division as it is still in contact with the enemy) who has already made 2 tours of Iraq and 1 in Pakistan. He can personally back my information. But again, alas; he is still there and I am back here in the US again, TRAINING newly graduated from Basic and AIT ( Advanced Individual Training) on how to account for and destroy enemy weapons.
    Again, as my original post had made light of :” We need to remember that there will be alot of rumor , suspect stories of mistreatment etc… this always happens when chaos rules.
    Posted by Jerry at September 8, 2005 05:16 PM”

  • Mark

    Thad and wlpeak pointed out that the authors previously wrote for the Socialist Worker. In fact, it seems that they wrote this story for the Socialist Worker. See here(Link). My apologies if this has already been noted, but I didn’t see it in the comments. I don’t have much confidence in the veracity of the Socialist Worker.

    Mark

  • I will only note that the only people I have ever heard call military food ‘C-Rations’ have been people of my father’s generation (who retired last year) who actually had to eat the vile stuff. I’m nearly 40, spent eight years in the Marines and I never saw one, never heard any Marines refer to them as anything but ‘MRE’ or ‘that crap we had for dinner’.

    So these two might well have called ‘MREs’ C-Rations but if so they might be a pair of very OLD EMS techs.

  • Arguing over MREs vs. C-rations is like arguing if the Titanic was painted blue or red below the waterline and therefore basing you decision to believe a witness who claims the ship hit an iceberg on getting the colour of the paint correct.

    The fact is the I *have* seen the term “C-rations” used in the US press. That the usage is incorrect is irrelevent. The vast majority of people have never been in the military and neither know nor give a hoot about using correct terminology.

    Likewise, it does not matter a damn if the witnesses to the alleged events are socialists or fascists or even republicans. Ignore the anti-Bush blather, it is irrelevant to the facts. Ignore the claims of racism, because those are just matters of interpretation by the authors. What needs to be established is the truth or otherwise of the key facts, such as were they lied to by the cops? Were people prevented from escaping N.O.? Were shots fired over their heads? Was the group of refugees broken up at gunpoint? Were they harassed rather than helped by the authorities? THESE are what matter, not the personal biases of the authors.

  • ian

    This link to an article from UPI has the Gretna Police Chief admitting that they closed the bridge and kept people in New Orleans

    http://news.monstersandcritics.com/northamerica/article_1047143.php/Cops_trapped_survivors_in_New_Orleans

  • Glenn Reynolds has now linked to that, too, Ian. I’d say the (silly) debate over whether the account is factual has just ended.

    Now: who ordered what and when? Attorney General Gonzales, convene a federal grand jury today!

  • Pat Berry

    I was one of the most vocal critics of the paramedics’ story yesterday, but today it seems clear that I was wrong. I have seen the UPI report, and there is now no doubt in my mind that the important elements of the paramedics’ story are true. I should not have called it a fake.

    I was put off by the shrill tone of the story, the “anti-Bush blather” (as Perry puts it), and the playing of the race card. But Perry is right: we have to discount those elements and focus on the facts, which have now been confirmed in almost every detail.

    This is a truly appalling and shameful story, and I hope the people responsible are held accountable. Heads should roll.

  • Pat Berry

    David Ross wrote: “I’d say the (silly) debate over whether the account is factual has just ended.”

    The debate’s over as far as I’m concerned, but I don’t agree that it was silly. It’s important to be skeptical of extraordinary accounts like this one, to question apparent errors and inconsistencies, and to insist on independent corroboration. It would have been a mistake to just accept the story as gospel. Now that we’ve tried to shake it and found that it holds up, we’re in a better position than before, are we not?

    The debate was both useful and necessary, if you ask me.

  • Midwesterner

    Just some more pieces that fit and don’t contradict,

    First, these are not the buses that the EMT’s ordered. Different bus company, different customer. –

    “The work order came from the Federal Emergency Management Agency”

    All the same, they were requested for carrying refugees, but –

    “By the time the buses arrived in New Orleans at 3 p.m. Saturday, the orders had changed, he said. Instead of refugees, they were carrying military personnel from the New Orleans airport to two military bases around the city.”

    For the person who derided the presence of shopping carts –

    “He didn’t see anyone looting, just a few people pushing belongings, including bottles of water, in shopping carts.”

    And there might not have been enough law enforcement for restoring order. But at least the soldiers were protected. –

    “Most of the cars on the roads were military or police vehicles, although there were a few civilian cars. The buses were escorted by military or police cars as they carried soldiers around.”

    The whole story is in todays Wisconsin State Journal.

    http://www.madison.com/wsj/home/local/index.php?ntid=53182&ntpid=2(Link)

  • sara

    bradshaw, slonsky and gretna’s police chief talk to san fran columnist:

    http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/09/09/BAGL1EL1KH1.DTL

  • The debate was both useful and necessary, if you ask me.

    This debate (“as a whole, this story is bogus”) sounded more like a desperate attempt to believe Figures In Authority at any cost, even over multiple first person accouonts which could be corropborated with 10 minutes of Google.

    I think that’s a very dangerous impulse in this situation. The many people who are going to try to cover their asses are hoping for exactly such a reaction….

  • Pat Berry

    zota wrote: “This debate (‘as a whole, this story is bogus’) sounded more like a desperate attempt to believe Figures In Authority at any cost, even over multiple first person accouonts which could be corropborated with 10 minutes of Google.”

    Except that the paramedics telling this story are also Figures In Authority.

    And as for using Google searches to corroborate the story, is that not exactly what we have been doing?

  • Padraig

    See, this is why Libertarians will never constitute a majority inthis country. $45 a head is a bit much when one’s entire house/apartment has been washed away. How much money do the poor usually carry in their wallets? And are we to believe that ‘welfare-addled’ do-nothings, which I can only suppose is a charming white-middle-class-libertarian reference to ‘blacks’, should simply be left to their fates? Or that these people chose to lay down and die rather than use every strategy possible to survive, but couldn’t afford to get out? Funny, for a supposedly ‘rationalist’ website, you seem to assume that everyone poor is simply irrational. Perhaps you all might have better luck at the ballot box if you didn’t tell the dead and dying that it’s their own fault for not having enough money. Show me a Libertarian, and I’ll show you a person who’s never had to worry about buying food.

  • Midweswterner

    Padraig, this whole Katrina fiasco is one unbroken chain of government (the hero in your scenario) forcibly and sometimes violently interfering with private and individual (our hero) efforts. And doing this while protecting only government and political interests.

    And “welfare-addling” shows no preference for colors. If it is disproportionately represented in any part of the population, that reflects the presumptions of its administrators, your heroes. If you spent even a fraction of the effort “selling” welfare to whites as you do to blacks, the ratios would probably be the same.

    If you follow this thread in detail, which apparently you didn’t, you could only agree that the poor would have been much better cared for by the private sector than they were by that welfare state you are defending.

    And as for your passing shot, I have. I have made calculations on nutrition per dollar. I’ve had to return staples to the supermarket shelves when I didn’t have enough money to check out. I can tell you from trial and error that white bread and eggs are cheapest way to keep going through lean times. If I am not in this condition now, it’s no credit to your policies.

    In summary, I believe you are the racist in this thread.

  • Josh

    You can read Larry Bradshaw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky’s response to their account.

  • Cali

    I’m confused by their accounts already. Their original letter stated that they (the hotel guests) had pooled their own money together to save themselves:
    “We decided we had to save ourselves. So we pooled our money and came up with $25,000 to have ten buses come and take us out of the city. Those who didn’t have the requisite $45 each were subsidized by those who did have extra money. ”

    However, in their recent open reply letter listed above (http://www.socialistworker.org/2005-2/557/557_00_LetterFromLBx2.shtml) they state:
    “Someone wanted corroboration on the rented buses. We do not know the name of the bus company. Ronald Pincus, the vice president of the Hotel Monteleone, found, booked and fronted the money for the buses. By the way, we cannot say enough good things about the Monteleone workers and about the vice president. All went way beyond the call of duty and were simply incredible.”

    So wait…who paid for the buses? On one hand they said they did it themselves, on the other they’re saying the hotel did it. In the original letter they seemed to imply that the hotel kicked them out yet they commend them in the above reply.

    Something just doesn’t ring true. Some things may have happened to them but I feel like they’re blowing up more to make an even bigger point. It’s too bad if some of this was true it would sound a lot more credible if they didn’t pepper it with their own biased observations. God forbid there would be any “hero” images of National Guard troops saving victims. As if any image of this happening is a sham and only regular working folks can/would help each other.

  • Al

    For anyone who doubts this story as told, you can get verification on today’s broadcast of National Public Radio (NPR) and or (WNYC) in New York.

    They have interviewed the Cheif of Police in New Gretna and allowed him to tell his side of the story which is the same as has been stated above by other poster’s.

  • Cali

    I listened to the NPR report and I don’t agree with but can see the point of the Gretna police/community. Frankly I think they were wrong but probably panicked.

    My problem with the whole story is the way it was peppered with the authors bias. It’s like telling a fish story. Yes the person in fact did catch a fish but the size and how much they went through to get it may be exagerated. As I stated in my previous post, the whole story of the buses and the hotel are very different from their original story and their following response. What was your opinion of the hotel when you first read the story? In their interviews they never mention the hotel helping them but only mention the fact that they were turned out. If you never saw their follow-up response, you’d assume that the hotel was being callous to these poor victims. Now that you’ve read their response, isn’t it amazing how your opinion of the hotel is different? It is for me and frankly that bothers me. By leaving out some key facts, the authors were able to manipulate the readers opinion of the hotel. But how many people have been emailed or know about this follow-up response? I bet there are a lot of people who feel the hotel acted like assholes. Their attempt to vilify anyone in power and create this heroic air around only them lead to this whole “this is a fake” attitude that many people had. It bothers me because I wonder what other bits of fact was left out of the story to make the situation seem far worse. By manipulating the truth, you can’t expect people to believe you.

    Like I said, what happened to the tourists was horrible and I believe elements of their story. But I’m still very annoyed at the writers.