A new report in The Nation documents what many have claimed for years--for some Black New Orleanians the threat of being killed by White vigilantes in Katrina's aftermath became a bigger threat than the storm itself.
After the storm, White vigilantes roamed Algiers Point shooting and, according to their own accounts, killing Black men at will--with no threat of a police response. For the last three years, the shootings and the police force's role in them have been an open secret to many New Orleanians. To date, no one has been charged with a crime and law enforcement officials have refused to investigate.
The report is helpful, but given Lousiana's horrible record on protecting its Black citizens, justice will only come if we demand it.
I've joined ColorOfChange in calling on Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Louisiana's Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, and the U.S. Department of Justice--to conduct a full investigation of these crimes and any police cover-up. Will you join me? It takes only a moment:
In the two weeks after Hurricane Katrina made landfall, the media created a climate of fear with trumped-up stories of Black lawlessness. Meanwhile an armed group of White vigilantes took over the Algiers Point neighborhood in New Orleans and mercilessly hunted down Black people. "It was great!" said one vigilante. "It was like pheasant season in South Dakota. If it moved, you shot it."
The Nation's article tells the story of Donnell Herrington, Marcel Alexander, and Chris Collins--a group of friends who were attacked by shotgun-wielding White men as they entered Algiers Point on September 1, 2005. As they tried to escape, Herrington recalls, their attackers shouted, "Get him! Get that nigger!" He managed to get away. Alexander and Collins were told that they would be allowed to live on the condition that they told other Black folks not to come to Algiers Point. Herrington, shot in the neck, barely survived.
And there's the story of Henry Glover, who didn't survive after being shot by an unknown assailant. Glover's brother flagged down a stranger for help, and the two men brought Glover to a police station. But instead of receiving aid, they were beaten by officers while Henry Glover bled to death in the back seat of the stranger's car. A police officer drove off in the car soon afterward. Both Glover's body and the car were found burnt to cinders a week later. It took DNA analysis to identify the body.
These are only a few of the stories of Black folks who were accosted in Algiers Point, and you can read more in The Nation. But unless you speak out, we may never learn the full extent of the violence. Journalists have encountered a wall of silence on the part of the authorities. The coroner had to be sued to turn over autopsy records. When he finally complied, the records were incomplete, with files on several suspicious deaths suddenly empty. The New Orleans police and the District Attorney repeatedly refused to talk to journalists about Algiers Point. And according to The Nation journalist A.C. Thompson, "the city has in nearly every case refused to investigate or prosecute people for assaults and murders committed in the wake of the storm."
The Nation article is important, but it's just a start. For more than three years now, these racist criminals have by their own admission gotten away with murder while officials in New Orleans have systematically evaded any kind of accountability. We have to demand it.
Please join me in calling on state and federal officials to investigate these brutal attacks and the conduct of Orleans Parish law enforcement agencies, and please ask your friends and family to do the same.
1. "Katrina's Hidden Race War," The Nation, 12-18-2008
2. "Body of Evidence," The Nation, 12-18-2008