This week in The Nation, please read A. C. Thompson's "Katrina's Hidden Race War".
After Hurricane Katrina, white vigilante groups patrolled New Orleans, blockaded streets, and shot at least eleven black men.
The existence of this little army isn't a secret--in 2005 a few newspaper reporters wrote up the group's activities in glowing terms in articles that showed up on an array of pro-gun blogs; one Cox News story called it "the ultimate neighborhood watch."
Herrington, for his part, recounted his ordeal in Spike Lee's documentary When the Levees Broke. But until now no one has ever seriously scrutinized what happened in Algiers Point during those days, and nobody has asked the obvious questions. Were the gunmen, as they claim, just trying to fend off looters? Or does Herrington's experience point to a different, far uglier truth?
Over the course of an eighteen-month investigation, I tracked down figures on all sides of the gunfire, speaking with the shooters of Algiers Point, gunshot survivors and those who witnessed the bloodshed. I interviewed police officers, forensic pathologists, firefighters, historians, medical doctors and private citizens, and studied more than 800 autopsies and piles of state death records. What emerged was a disturbing picture of New Orleans in the days after the storm, when the city fractured along racial fault lines as its government collapsed.
Herrington, Collins and Alexander's experience fits into a broader pattern of violence in which, evidence indicates, at least eleven people were shot. In each case the targets were African-American men, while the shooters, it appears, were all white.
The new information should reframe our understanding of the catastrophe. Immediately after the storm, the media portrayed African-Americans as looters and thugs--Mayor Ray Nagin, for example, told Oprah Winfrey that "hundreds of gang members" were marauding through the Superdome. Now it's clear that some of the most serious crimes committed during that time were the work of gun-toting white males.
So far, their crimes have gone unpunished.
The organization Color of Change is organizing a campaign to tell Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and state officials to investigate the shootings, as "Louisiana's broken law enforcement agencies have refused to investigate these crimes."
At Color of Change, you can watch Thompson's video on his report, and sign a petition demanding that Jindal, Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, and the US Department of Justice investigate the shootings. Sign the petition here.
Thanks to Allan and Dean G for the links.