from The Root/The Nation: When White Vigilantes Reign

Jan 16, 2009 by

I wanted to post about this article last month but for various reasons, including battles over my own blog, I didn’t. Kai Wright introduces The Nation article at The Root and also has a Q&A with Nation writer A. C. Thompson. The reading is chilling but not totally surprising in a racially-charged city at a racially-charged time:

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.” [Donnell] 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.

And:

He [Wayne Janak, 60, a carpenter and contractor]’s equally blunt in Welcome to New Orleans, an hourlong documentary produced by the Danish video team, who captured Janak, beer in hand, gloating about hunting humans. Surrounded by a crowd of sunburned white Algiers Point locals at a barbeque held not long after the hurricane, he smiles and tells the camera, “It was great! It was like pheasant season in South Dakota. If it moved, you shot it.” A native of Chicago, Janak also boasts of becoming a true Southerner, saying, “I am no longer a Yankee. I earned my wings.” A white woman standing next to him adds, “He understands the N-word now.” In this neighborhood, she continues, “we take care of our own.”

Malik Rahim gave details of bodies he saw in the streets after the storm and:

Rahim introduces me to his neighbor, Reggie Bell, 39, the African-American man Pervel confronted at gunpoint as he walked by Pervel’s house. At the time, Bell, a cook, lived just a few blocks down the street from Pervel. In Bell’s recollection, Pervel, standing with another gun-toting man, demanded to know what Bell was doing in Algiers Point. “I live here,” Bell replied. “I can show you mail.”

That answer didn’t appease the gunmen, he says. According to Bell, Pervel told him, “Well, we don’t want you around here. You loot, we shoot.”

Roughly twenty-four hours later, as Bell sat on his front porch grilling food, another batch of armed white men accosted him, intending to drive him from his home at gunpoint, he says. “Whatcha still doing around here?” they asked, according to Bell. “We don’t want you around here. You gotta go.”

The truth of the post-Katrina, post-Flood NO is still coming out and still needs to, esp. with outgoing (fucking finally!) President Bush saying not a thing went wrong with the response to Katrina and “30,000 people” were saved from rooftops the first day. What, the first day he noticed? Really?

I’m sad for my city. The Floods made the cracks harder to ignore and too big to walk over. The only way out of this racial conflict, tension, and hostility is through it.

G Bitch
NOLA

The new temporary home of The Spot: gbitchspot.com. I hope to have old posts and all the bling pasted on before Mardi Gras.

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photo courtesy of foxxyz, used under this Creative Commons license

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