Vigilantes, cops shot down Black people
Dec 22, 2008
In an investigative article released this week, a reporter who spent a year
and a half in New Orleans connects the dots on reports that have circulated
ever since Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005 showing that Black people were dying
from indiscriminate shootings as well as from drowning after Katrina.
“Katrina’s Hidden Race War,” is a shocking investigation
of racist vigilante violence written by A. C. Thompson for the Jan. 5 issue of
The Nation magazine.
Thompson’s exposé focuses on the predominately white neighborhood
of Algiers Point, a national historic district made up of 150-year-old
Victorian homes with fresh coats of paint and well-manicured lawns.
In Algiers Point, which itself is surrounded by the general community of
mostly African-American Algiers, a system of racist vigilante justice was
established while the police turned a blind eye.
After Katrina hit, the national news media screamed about roving gangs of
“thugs” in the Superdome and “looters” rampaging
through New Orleans. There was, in fact, serious crime going on but it
wasn’t in the Superdome and it wasn’t “looters”—a
codename for poor, Black people.
According to Thompson’s report, it was bands of whites in Algiers
Point who shot many and killed a reported 11 Black men. These murders, these
serious crimes, were never reported on Fox News and have never been
investigated by police or any other officials.
On Dec. 19, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez interviewed Thompson as well as
Donnell Herrington, a survivor of the vigilante violence, on Democracy Now.
Herrington nearly died on Sept. 1, 2005, after being shot by a white
vigilante while he was heading to an official evacuation site at the Algiers
Point Ferry terminal. His story was featured in The Nation article.
When asked by Goodman if he would like to see justice brought to those who tried to murder him, Herrington said, “Yeah, of course. Of course. I would like to see
all those who participated in that horrible, horrible act of
violence—I would like to see all those people be brought to
Goodman then asked him what it would take to bring about justice. “You
know, this is the kind of thing that many, many people can investigate: the
local DA, the local police, the state attorney general, the federal
authorities. If the public demands that the authorities actually take a look at
this, it may well happen. But it’s going to take the public pushing the
authorities to do something,” Thompson said.
Since Thompson’s lengthy piece was published, many e-mail lists and
Facebook sites are promoting it and proposing pressure be put on officials to
Color of Change, an activist organization that came into prominence
promoting justice for the Jena 6 defendants, did a massive e-mail blast that
included letters to Louisiana’s new governor, Bobby Jindal, Louisiana
Attorney General James “Buddy” Caldwell and the U.S. Department of
Justice, urging them to investigate the Algiers Point attacks.
A reign of terror in New Orleans
Sister Krystal Muhammad told Workers World, “When the Panthers first
got to Algiers Point in New Orleans, it was seven days after Hurricane Katrina
had hit. I remember because the headline in the paper that day said ‘7th
Day of Hell.’ Sister Queen had called us. She didn’t have power. A
large tree was down on her property on Newton Street. We had gone to get her
and others who wanted to leave. When we got there, we saw something I
couldn’t believe. A body in the road, so bloated and smelling. Right
there, stretched out spread eagle. He had a bullet hole in the middle of his
“We saw police cars drive by, right past the body, and they kept on
driving. They did nothing and there was a dead body in the street with a bullet
hole in his head.”
Muhammad and other members of the Houston chapter of the New Black Panther
Party, had gone to New Orleans to help take people out after evacuees in
Houston‘s Astrodome told them that many buses were taking only whites out
of New Orleans.
What she and others found in New Orleans was desperate, hungry, hot and
thirsty people living under a dusk-to-dawn curfew in an atmosphere created by
former Gov. Kathleen Blanco and former Mayor Ray Nagin, where any Black person
was labeled a suspected looter and became a target not only of racist bands of
vigilantes but also of the police themselves.
“As soon as we got into New Orleans, there were spray-painted signs
everywhere saying, ‘If you loot, we’ll shoot!’ Mayor Nagin
ordered over 1,000 cops to stop trying to rescue people and to go after
so-called looters instead,” Muhammad said.
The NBPP says that while they heard reports of the vigilante activity in
Algiers Point, they also heard many in the community talk about other
extra-judicial killings and those were done by the police themselves.
“The body in the street at Sister Queen’s house—all the
neighbors said that the police had killed him and left his body there to rot.
They saw this.
“We took this one family on our bus back to Houston. The boys were
Mario and Roland and they were with their grandmother and their uncles. Their
mother had been arrested walking down the street with a loaf of bread and some
water. They took her like a criminal, not like a mother looking out for her
“Another family was a young woman named Tasha and her little sister
and her two daughters. They told us that while under curfew they watched the
police drive down the street while people were sitting in their own yards and
the cops would point guns at them with the red beam of light shining on their
foreheads. The cops told them to get inside. It was hot and there was no
power,” Muhammad said.
The ruling classes of Louisiana and the U.S. have covered up the crimes
committed after Katrina because the most serious crimes were committed by the
government itself. It was inept, unprepared, uncaring and racist officials that
caused a reign of terror over New Orleans.
There are four lawsuits pending in federal court in New Orleans arising from
the police decision not to allow people to walk on foot across the Crescent
City Connection Bridge to leave the chaos of Hurricane Katrina. On Dec. 19 the
federal judge dismissed one of the central claims and sided with the police,
saying they were only trying to keep law and order.
Order will come to New Orleans when the people living there can control
their own lives free of racists, whether in City Hall or in the streets.