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Tuesday 06 September 2005

Interesting New Orleans Story

Here is a first-person account of the aftermath of the New Orleans flooding that showed up today on the Daily Kos.

I’m not sure how true it is; on DK they aren’t even sure of its provenance, so I’m taking it with a grain of salt for now. One of the writers credited has an unusual name, and to judge from Google she is a paramedic and a labor-union rabble-rouser from San Francisco; the other has a name too common for Google to be very helpful. Some of the conclusions drawn are glib, to say the least (Racism!!1; Bush!!!11; Iraq!!!!1; etc.), but the rest of the story is interesting and insightful, and nothing really conflicts with anything I’ve heard elsewhere.

After having their buses commandeered and being kicked out of their hotels, the band of hurricane victims of which the writer was a part wandered from Superdome to Convention Center to Police HQ, only to be turned away at each place, often (according to the story) with lies or hostility. Eventually, they set up camp in the middle of the I-10:

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.

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.

The writers seem to be trying hard to make a point about communitarian-ness (‘Now secure with the two necessities, food and water; cooperation, community, and creativity flowered’), but I see a story of typical American ingenuity and inclusiveness at work — and then thwarted by the state. If the story is true, it belongs next to the tale of Jabbar Gibson as an example of the merits of self-reliance and ad-hocracy.

UPDATE: Apparently this story is originally from here, where there’s also this note:

Bradshaw and Slonsky are paramedics frorm California that were attending the EMS conference in New Orleans. Larry Bradsahw is the chief shop steward, Paramedic Chapter, SEIU Local 790; and Lorrie Beth Slonsky is steward, Paramedic Chapter, SEIU Local 790.[California]

Posted by tino at 20:12 6.09.05
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Petition to honor Jabbar Gibson


“We have been extraordinarily moved by the story of Jabbar Gibson, and the initiative he displayed in commandeering a bus to drive Hurricane Katrina victims out of New Orleans. We were very alarmed to hear that he was at one time in danger of prosecution. Mr. Gibson declared to the news media, “I don’t care if I get blamed for it, as long as I saved my people.” But WE care if he gets blamed for it.”


” We request that this young man be awarded appropriately with a Presidential Medal of Freedom and a full four-year scholarship to the college of his choice. For we truly believe that Jabbar Gibson as an individual, exemplified the courage and the spirit that is the best part of America and in so doing became emblematic of the actions many others who responded bravely and selflessly in the face of this disaster. He is someone we should support, encourage, and see prosper in this great nation. Jabbar Gibson and those like him are the future of America!”

Posted by: GH at September 10, 2005 04:05 AM