Two Americas, One Bridge

People would go up the bridge every time they lined us up for the buses and the buses wouldn't come. People in groups would go up the bridge trying to go across the river. People who had family across the river couldn't get across the river. They were not letting us out of there. -- Denise Marsh, a Convention Center evacuee interviewed on This American Life (audio attached)

For all you people who think we are races in Gretna, please leave your address, we will be glad to bus all the criminals to your home town. Lets see how you would like your house robbed, or your daughter raped, or you house burned down. ... You people in cities like Houston will be sorry you took those people in, just watch the crime rate in Houston climb, and the other cities that took them in. -- comment posted this morning on Workbench

Residents of Gretna, Louisiana, are pleased with the decision to block the Mississippi River bridge leading out of New Orleans to evacuees after Hurricane Katrina.

The Gretna city council passed a resolution Thursday supporting the police chief's decision to block the bridge.

The Los Angeles Times describes three of the undesirables kept out of the city:

Among the people trapped in the city were Sandra's son and her ex-husband, Otis, 61, a diabetic who has used a wheelchair since his leg was amputated.

Otis had gone without dialysis for five days when their sons, Otis Jr., 35, and Orrin, 34, decided to push his wheelchair down the highway in search of help. They ended up walking miles.

They were near safety that Wednesday after the hurricane -- most of the way across the Crescent City Bridge into Gretna, La. -- when an armed officer told them to turn back because Gretna officials were concerned about looting.

By the time they made it out of New Orleans, hitching a ride on a truck, the younger men's feet were bloody and covered with rashes. Otis Sr. had fallen out of his wheelchair three times while they were walking and had open wounds on his head. He was nearly in a coma.

Allegations that race played a factor in the bridge blockade are being heard by attorneys for the NAACP, President Bruce Gordon told me during a bloggers' conference call Wednesday.

Louisiana NAACP President Ernest Johnson said, "Those who had the ability to transport themselves out prior to the floods were received with open arms. It wasn't 'til the ethnicity changed that that kind of reception committee was formed."

Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson Jr. denies race motivated the decision.

Gretna, population 17,000, is the seat of Jefferson Parish, described in 2003 as "Louisiana's most notoriously racist parish" by the Louisiana Capital Assistance Center, a group that provides legal defense for indigent suspects in death penalty trials.

A blogger's map shows the position of Gretna relative to flooding and relief efforts staged on Interstate Highway 610 northwest of the city. The map's creator argues that the bridge route would have done more harm than good, sending people on foot further than a route along the New Orleans side of the Mississippi River.

In other news:

Gretna Mayor Ronnie Harris said his city relied on help from friends in other cities in the first harrowing days after Hurricane Katrina because no assistance from federal or state governments was forthcoming.

"We got help from people that I made contacts with, not from the bureaucracy for four or five days," he said.

"I kept trying to get the director of [Louisiana] Office of Emergency Preparedness and he never took my call. We never saw anybody from FEMA or the Red Cross," Harris said. "I understand the national media focus was on New Orleans but we had needs too."

Politics · Podcasts · Hurricane Katrina · 2005/09/17 · 11 COMMENTS · Link


This is exactly how "Compassionate Conservatives" operate. They may as well have burned a cross on the bridge.

The map guy's wrong about the EMTs getting out along the East Bank. In the American Life piece, they explain that they were eventually able to contact their union, who contacted FEMA, who contacted the Gretna cops.

Even then, the paramedics say, they had to claim that the other six people they were with (several of whom were dark-skinned) were family members before the Gretna cops would let them all through.

Hey JustSomeGuy- screw you.

The Gretna people were wrong for what they did, but to take a cheap shot and try to tie them to Bush or Republicans is just sleazy. Just because one group of people are racists it doesn't mean you can just lump them in with a much broader group.

On another note, to the racist scumbags in Gretna, I live in St. Peters, MO. You can easily find my address on Google. Feel free to send anyone who needs help my way.

I wish there were a way to keep a lot of outsiders out of my town also, but sometime you do what has to be done.

It's just so disenheartning that the townspeople are so backwards and xenophobic that they would even try to justify their actions as human beings (and animals) are dieing. Is there fear of being raped and robbed really that strong? This is a direct reaction to the new sensationalism of crime by us tv news shows. I thank god i live in NYC.

Todd, I can gar-oun-tee you that the same fear and loathing exists in every suburb in America. I can easily imagine the residents of, say, (92.3% white) Wauwatosa up here in enlightened, progressive Wisconsin doing the same thing to their fellow, impecunious citizens in Milwaukee during a crisis.

I know people in the Austin area who wanted to offer housing and they were told not to do it. The cops told them that anyone of good character was already being helped by family and friends and that the remaining refugees were "the criminal riff-raff of the city". Nice thing to say about people they have never met.

President William Blythe Clinton,

Of the Blood Royal,


"I Still Believe in a Place Called



hey vince, it depends on what the meaning of still is.

Unconscionable. Truly unconscionable. The people of Gretna -- I just can't imagine what sort of people could be so heartless. Turning away hopeless refugees on a bridge... It shocks one's conscience.

Hurricane Katrina and African-American Human Security Interest
The United States government ignores the human security interest of African Americans. History remains true to the fact that Africans in America is at risk when it comes to issues of security from deprivation--no one is there for us, there are no provisions, no protocols, no politic, and clearly no governance agencies active to these ends. The phase "human security" isn't active in the current political discussion.

No one in discussing hurricane Katrina has spoken the words "Human Security."
Not president Bush, not Congress, not Tavis Smiley, not FEMA, not Mayor Ray Nagin of New Orleans, not Gov. Barbour--MS, not David Brooks--NY Times, not NPR. ABC, CBS, BBC, NBC, not Beverly Kirk--PBS, No one! And no Think-Tanks, No one in or out of the media,

Katrina brought the issue of Human Security straightforward, why hasn't the great thinkers & speakers voiced this important concepts? They said bad words by calling the citizens refugees, and the citizen complained ardently, but did they voice concerns for their human-security? Not yet. Some high minded Ones even voiced "Human rights' yet failed to even whisper human security. Others are crying the lost of materials ... still they do not cry for security from deprivation.

Now Hurricane Katrina is teaching that there are no emergency issues, no welfare issues, no poverty issues, no charity issues, and most importantly, "Giving donations" is not the process to secure human wellbeing.

Temporary brushfire action groups like the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and well-meaning church organization are inappropriate because they do not address the grand need for a Human security paradigm. Homeland Security seems to mean searching citizens, and being alert against enemy assault.

Human Security means securing the wellbeing and integrity of the human condition. In order to achieve Human security we must change the current operative of disaster assistance; to a provision designed for keeping human beings alive and living at the optimum of wellness and human dignity.

The Human Security operative is profoundly humane. With a Human security operations in place there would be no way to allow for any form of human deprivation. Do we begin now? Or do we wait until another brushfire strikes, or another child is found homeless and hungry on the streets?

Are we so unlettered to realize that the prime objective of the democratic process is to secure the human community? The first principle of democracy is Human-security. We have but one imperative--to advance human security now. All are responsible for this task for there is no other way to achieve security for ones-own person. Human security is not about feeling sorry for the poor; it's not about survival ...
It is about providing for the wellbeing of the human family. Let us not be afraid to do just that; there are no reasons to hesitate.

The Human Security movement recognizes that we must establish human security provisions within world governance dynamic. Or shall we remain blind to the value of our common humanity. Human Security is already on the conference table at the United Nations, waiting to be implemented. The Human security conference & network urge you to take actions on this the all-important concern.

Dr.Benet Luchion D.Sci. The Advocacy for Universal Security

Resources: African Union program on African Security, United Nations Commission on Human Security, A Common Subregional Agenda for Peace Human Security and Conflict Prevention, Regional Human Security Center, The Initiative for African Security, The Trust Fund for Human Security For the "Human-centered" 21st Century, The Center for Peace and Human Security, The Committee for Universal Security.

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