September 17, 2005

'A nice, white city, for white, rich businessmen.'

Jeremy Scahill of the independent news program 'Democracy Now' has been in New Orleans for the last week, looking at how Hurricane Katrina has changed the city. On Friday, his report included these disturbing observations on the militarization of New Orleans, and on how race looks to be a big factor in the city's reconstruction:

One of the great concerns right now in New Orleans is businessmen talking openly of wanting to see New Orleans change, to change it completely in a demographic sense, geographically, politically, racially. You have this overt rhetoric. Well, as residents of New Orleans come back in and they try to go back to the apartments they were rent stabilized, the houses they were renting, they face a city that has repressive laws that do not protect tenants. You have an overt agenda to change the racial makeup of the city, the economic makeup of the city, and you have these very wealthy people hiring private mercenary types to guard their property and their interests. Then you also have the National Guard and the Army inside of the city now, and so the potential for conflict with residents coming back in is very great. A lot of people are very concerned now with this Martial Law still in effect with the military curfew in effect, that that is going to remain as people come back and live here. It's one thing to have Martial law when you have a depopulated city. It's another thing to have it when you have people who want to go about the business of rebuilding their lives, particularly when they are being told by very wealthy, powerful people backed up by men with guns that they are not welcome in the city that they have lived in their whole life. We have a potential, I think, for serious, overt conflict, hot conflict here in New Orleans as people start coming back in....

Look at the comments of James Rice, a local businessman, who is one of the leaders of the private Audubon Place, the gated community. The only privately owned in the city of New Orleans. He told The Wall Street Journal, "Those who want to see this city rebuilt want to see it done in a completely different way, demographically, geographically and politically. I'm not just speaking for myself here. The way we have been living is not going to happen again or we?re out." James Rice has brought in Israeli para-militaries to guard his facility. It's Israeli company that brags about having former members of the Shin Beit, the GSS, the Israeli Defense Forces. He has brought them in. I was talking to them in front of his property. Some of them participated in the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and these are guys now who are patrolling outside on St. Charles avenue in front of Audubon Place and will potentially come into conflict with residents of New Orleans. What on earth are Israeli paramilitaries doing on the streets of New Orleans? These are the questions that people need to ask right now, defending a man like James Rice who was called for the poor to not be allowed back into New Orleans.

There's much more to Scahill's report. You'll find the complete transcript here.

Posted by Magpie at September 17, 2005 06:38 PM | US News | Technorati links |