Tuesday, September 13, 2005

It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superuser
TheDetroit Free TimescoversMichael Barnett, the network admin barricaded in downtown New Orleans who's been publishing a post-hurricane journal calledThe Interdictor.

Barnett, an unabashed libertarian with a military background, has covered the disaster with his blog and streaming webcam while remaining online, which is both a journalistic and technological feat. To my knowledge, his connection never went down.

Last night, some of the troops stationed in the cityfound them:

Sometime around midnight, a squad of 82nd Airborne guys accompanied by a US Marshall busted into our Data Center with their M4-A1s to investigate the lights and movement. Personally, I know they were just bored -- there's no way they honestly thought there was some kind of threat up here just yards away from several huge military and police presences.

Police Trapped Thousands in New Orleans
As the situation grew steadily worse in New Orleans last week, you might have wondered why people didn't just leave on foot. The Louisiana Superdome isless than two milesfrom a bridge that leads over the Mississippi River out of the city.

The answer: Any crowd that tried to do so was met by suburban police, some of whom fired guns to disperse the group and seized their water.

Around 500 people stuck in downtown New Orleans after the storm banded together for self-preservation, making sure the oldest and youngest among them were taken care of before looking after their own needs.

Two San Francisco paramedics who were staying in the French Quarter for a convention have written afirst-hand accountthat describes their appalling treatment at the hands of Louisiana police, a story confirmed today by theSan Francisco Chronicle,UPI, andSt. Louis Post-Dispatch.

When buses charted by the group to escape New Orleans never showed up, they camped out beside a police command center on Canal Street, believing it was the best place to get aid, protection, and information. They were told they could not stay there and should leave the city on foot over Highway 90, whichcrosses the Mississippi Riverfrom New Orleans to the suburb of Gretna, a city of 17,500 people.

Running out of food and water, they walked to the bridge, growing in number to around 800 people as word spread of a safe way out:

As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across thefoot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firingtheir weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in variousdirections. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward andmanaged to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of ourconversation with the police commander and of the commander's assurances. Thesheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us toget us to move.

We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway, especially as therewas little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank wasnot going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in theirCity.

In an interview with UPI, Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson confirmed that his department shut down the bridge to pedestrians:"If we had opened the bridge, our city would have looked like New Orleans does now: looted, burned and pillaged."

The increasingly desperate group set up camp on the New Orleans side of the bridge, where they were seen by several media outlets, until they were chased off at gunpoint by Gretna police:

Reduced to a small group of 8 people, in the dark, we sought refugein an abandoned school bus, under the freeway on Cilo Street. We were hidingfrom possible criminal elements but equally and definitely, we were hiding fromthe police and sheriffs with their martial law, curfew and shoot-to-killpolicies.

The paramedics believe that race played a factor in the decision to block evacuees on foot. Gretna's population is 56 percent white and 36 percent black, according to the2000 U.S. Census.

A columnist for theOrlando Sentinelponders the political impact of having so many New Orleans-area voters living in other states, perhaps permanently.

Even while carrying the state in 2004, Bush lost Orleans Parish by almost 110,000 votes out of fewer than 200,000 cast. Without Orleans Parish, Landrieu would not be in the Senate, and Blanco's election could have been very, very close.