The Criminalization of
New Orleans Residents
Katrina Survivor Stories
Bradshaw & Lorrie Beth Slonsky Story
The following was sent (September 06, 2005
11:07 PM) by Tobias Wolff to his father, Robert Paul Wolff,
professor in the Afro-American Studies Department at UMass
Amherst, and contains an eyewitness account of two
paramedic friends of Tobias who were trapped in New Orleans in
of Hurricane Katrina.
* * * *
eyewitness account from New Orleans
Larry Bradshaw and
Lorrie Beth Slonsky
Two days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the
Walgreen's store at the corner of Royal and Iberville streets
remained locked. The dairy display case was clearly visible
through the widows. It was now 48 hours without electricity,
running water, plumbing. The milk, yogurt, and cheeses were
beginning to spoil in the 90-degree heat. The owners and managers
had locked up the food, water, pampers, and prescriptions and fled
Outside Walgreen's windows, residents and tourists grew
increasingly thirsty and hungry. The much-promised federal, state
and local aid never materialized and the windows at Walgreen's
gave way to the looters. There was an alternative. The cops could
have broken one small window and distributed the nuts, fruit
juices, and bottle water in an organized and systematic manner.
But they did not. Instead they spent hours playing cat and mouse,
temporarily chasing away the looters.
We were finally airlifted out of New Orleans two days ago and
arrived home yesterday (Saturday). We have yet to see any of the
TV coverage or look at a newspaper. We are willing to guess that
there were no video images or front-page pictures of European or
affluent white tourists looting the Walgreen's in the French
We also suspect the media will have been inundated with
"hero" images of the National Guard, the troops and the
police struggling to help the "victims" of the
Hurricane. What you will not see, but what we witnessed, were the
real heroes and sheroes of the hurricane relief effort: the
working class of New Orleans. The maintenance workers who used a
fork lift to carry the sick and disabled. The engineers, who
rigged, nurtured and kept the generators running. The electricians
who improvised thick extension cords stretching over blocks to
share the little electricity we had in order to free cars stuck on
rooftop parking lots. Nurses who took over for mechanical
ventilators and spent many hours on end manually forcing air into
the lungs of unconscious patients to keep them alive. Doormen who
rescued folks stuck in elevators.
Refinery workers who broke into boat yards, "stealing"
boats to rescue their neighbors clinging to their roofs in flood
waters. Mechanics who helped hot-wire any car that could be found
to ferry people out of the City. And the food service workers who
scoured the commercial kitchens improvising communal meals for
hundreds of those stranded.
Most of these workers had lost their homes, and had not heard from
members of their families, yet they stayed and provided the only
infrastructure for the 20% of New Orleans that was not under
On Day 2, there were approximately 500 of us left in the hotels in
the French Quarter. We were a mix of foreign tourists, conference
attendees like ourselves, and locals who had checked into hotels
for safety and shelter from Katrina. Some of us had cell phone
contact with family and friends outside of New Orleans. We were
repeatedly told that all sorts of resources including the National
Guard and scores of buses were pouring in to the City. The buses
and the other resources must have been invisible because none of
us had seen them.
We decided we had to save ourselves. So we pooled our money and
came up with $25,000 to have ten buses come and take us out of the
City. Those who did not have the requisite $45.00 for a ticket
were subsidized by those who did have extra money. We waited for
48 hours for the buses, spending the last 12 hours standing
outside, sharing the limited water, food, and clothes we had.
We created a priority boarding area for the
sick, elderly and newborn babies. We waited late into the night
for the "imminent" arrival of the buses. The buses never
arrived. We later learned that the minute they arrived to the City
limits, they were commandeered by the military.
>By day 4 our hotels had run out of fuel and water. Sanitation
was dangerously abysmal. As the desperation and despair increased,
street crime as well as water levels began to rise. The hotels
turned us out and locked their doors, telling us that the
"officials" told us to report to the convention center
to wait for more buses. As we entered the center of the City, we
finally encountered the National Guard. The Guards told us we
would not be allowed into the Superdome as the City's primary
shelter had descended into a humanitarian and health hellhole.
The guards further told us that the City's only other shelter, the
Convention Center, was also descending into chaos and squalor and
that the police were not allowing anyone else in. Quite naturally,
we asked, "If we
can't go to the only 2 shelters in the City, what was our
alternative?" The guards told us that that was our problem,
and no they did not have extra water to give to us. This would be
the start of our numerous encounters with callous and hostile
We walked to the police command center at Harrah's on Canal Street
and were told the same thing, that we were on our own, and no they
did not have water to give us. We now numbered several hundred. We
held a mass meeting to decide a course of action. We agreed to
camp outside the police command post. We would be plainly visible
to the media and would constitute a highly visible embarrassment
to the City officials. The police told us that we could not stay.
Regardless, we began to settle in and set up camp.
In short order, the police commander came
across the street to address our group. He told us he had a
solution: we should walk to the Pontchartrain
Expressway and cross the greater New Orleans Bridge where
the police had buses lined up to take us out of the City. The
crowed cheered and began to move. We called everyone back and
explained to the commander that there had been lots of
misinformation and wrong information and was he sure that there
were buses waiting for us. The>commander turned to the crowd
and stated emphatically, "I swear to you that the buses are
We organized ourselves and the 200 of us set off for the bridge
with great excitement and hope. As we marched pasted the
convention center, many locals saw our determined and optimistic
group and asked where we were headed.
We told them about the great news. Families immediately
grabbed their few belongings and quickly our numbers doubled and
then doubled again. Babies in strollers now joined us, people
using crutches, elderly clasping walkers and others people in
wheelchairs. We marched the 2-3 miles to the freeway and up the
steep incline to the Bridge. It now began to pour down rain, but
it did not dampen our enthusiasm.
As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line
across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough
to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This
sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd
scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed
to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of
our conversation with the police commander and of the commander's
assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting.
The commander had lied to us to get us to move.
We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway, especially
as there was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded
that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there
would be no Superdomes in their City. These were code words for if
you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River
and you were not getting out of New Orleans.
Our small group retreated back down Highway 90 to seek shelter
from the rain under an overpass. We debated our options and in the
end decided to build an encampment in the middle of the
Ponchartrain Expressway on the center divide, between the O'Keefe
and Tchoupitoulas exits. We reasoned we would be visible to
everyone, we would have some security being on an elevated freeway
and we could wait and watch for the arrival of the yet to be seen buses.
All day long, we saw other families, individuals and groups make
the same trip up the incline in an attempt to cross the bridge,
only to be turned away. Some chased away with gunfire, others
simply told no, others to be verbally berated and humiliated.
Thousands of New Orleaners were prevented
and prohibited from self-evacuating the City on foot.
Meanwhile, the only two City shelters sank further into squalor
and disrepair. The only way across the bridge was by vehicle. We
saw workers stealing trucks, buses, moving vans, semi-trucks and
any car that could be hotwired. All were packed with people trying
to escape the misery New Orleans had become.
Our little encampment began to blossom. Someone stole a water
delivery truck and brought it up to us. Let's hear it for looting!
A mile or so down the freeway, an army truck lost a couple of
pallets of C-rations on a tight turn. We ferried the food back to
our camp in shopping carts.
Now secure with the two necessities, food and water; cooperation,
community, and creativity flowered. We organized a clean up and
hung garbage bags from the rebar poles. We made beds from wood
pallets and cardboard. We designated a storm drain as the bathroom
and the kids built an elaborate enclosure for privacy out of
plastic, broken umbrellas, and other scraps. We even organized a
food recycling system where individuals could swap out parts of
C-rations (applesauce for babies and candies for kids!).
This was a process we saw repeatedly in the aftermath of Katrina.
When individuals had to fight to find food or water, it meant
looking out for yourself
only. You had to do whatever it took to find water for your kids
or food for your parents. When these basic needs were met, people
began to look out for each other, working together and
constructing a community.
If the relief organizations had saturated the City with food and
water in the first 2 or 3 days, the desperation, the frustration
and the ugliness would not have set in.
Flush with the necessities, we offered food and water to passing
families and individuals. Many decided to stay and join us. Our
encampment grew to 80 or 90 people.
From a woman with a battery powered radio we learned that the
media was talking about us. Up in full view on the freeway, every
relief and news organizations saw us on their way into the City.
Officials were being asked what they were going to do about all
those families living up on the freeway? The officials responded
they were going to take care of us. Some of us got a sinking
feeling. "Taking care of us" had an ominous tone to it.
Unfortunately, our sinking feeling (along with the sinking City)
was correct. Just as dusk set in, a Gretna Sheriff showed up,
jumped out of his patrol vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces,
screaming, "Get off the fucking freeway". A helicopter
arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow away our flimsy
structures. As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck with
our food and water.
Once again, at gunpoint, we were forced off the freeway. All the
law enforcement agencies appeared threatened when we congregated
or congealed into groups of 20 or more. In every congregation of
"victims" they saw "mob" or "riot".
We felt safety in numbers. Our "we must stay together"
was impossible because the agencies would force us into small
In the pandemonium of having our camp raided and destroyed, we
scattered once again. Reduced to a small group of 8 people, in the
dark, we sought refuge in an abandoned school bus, under the
freeway on Cilo Street. We were hiding from possible criminal
elements but equally and definitely, we were hiding from the
police and sheriffs with their martial law, curfew and
The next days, our group of 8 walked most of the day, made contact
with New Orleans Fire Department and were eventually airlifted out
by an urban search and rescue team. We were dropped off near the
airport and managed to catch a ride with the National Guard. The
two young guardsmen apologized for the limited response of the
Louisiana guards. They explained that a large section of their
unit was in Iraq and that meant they were shorthanded and were
unable to complete all the tasks they were assigned.
We arrived at the airport on the day a massive airlift had begun.
The airport had become another Superdome. We 8 were caught in a
press of humanity as flights were delayed for several hours while
George Bush landed briefly at the airport for a photo op. After
being evacuated on a coast guard cargo plane, we arrived in San
There the humiliation and dehumanization of the
official relief effort continued. We were placed on buses and
driven to a large field where we were forced to sit for hours and
hours. Some of the buses did not have air-conditioners. In the
dark, hundreds of us were forced to share two filthy overflowing
porta-potties. Those who managed to make it out with any
possessions (often a few belongings in tattered plastic bags) we
were subjected to two different dog-sniffing searches.
Most of us had not eaten all day because our C-rations had been
confiscated at the airport because the rations set off the metal
detectors. Yet, no food had been provided to the men, women,
children, elderly, disabled as they sat for hours waiting to be
"medically screened" to make sure we were not carrying
any communicable diseases.
This official treatment was in sharp contrast to the warm,
heart-felt reception given to us by the ordinary Texans. We saw
one airline worker give her shoes to someone who was barefoot.
Strangers on the street offered us money and toiletries with words
of welcome. Throughout, the official relief effort was callous,
inept, and racist. There was more suffering than need be. Lives
were lost that did not need to be lost.
Associate Professor of American Literature
893 West Street
Amherst MA, 01002-3359
* * *
Couple details difficulties
escaping from N.O.
San Francisco paramedics say suburban officials denied them entry
MSNBC / Sept. 13, 2005
MSNBC's Chris Matthews
Interviews Lorrie Slonsky and Larry Bradshaw
Lorrie Slonsky and Larry Bradshaw are
paramedics from San Francisco who were attending an EMS conference
in New Orleans at the time that Hurricane Katrina hit town.
Their tale of attempted evacuation and eventual survival has
spread since they were able to escape from New Orleans and return
home. On Monday 12 September 2005, they joined MSNBC's Chris
Matthews to tell their story.
Chris Matthews: Larry, tell us, you and
Lorrie tell us what happened to you as people who were in this
area at that time.
Larry Bradshaw, Hurricane Survivor:
Hi, Chris. We were caught up with tens of thousands of people
that couldn't get out of New Orleans before the hurricane hit.
Our flight was canceled. We were unable to reschedule.
And we couldn't find a rental car anywhere. So, we hunkered
down to ride out the hurricane.
And we knew it would be bad for the first
And we thought, after the second or third day,
things would start to improve. But each day deteriorated.
It got worse, as opposed to improving. By the fourth day, on
Thursday, we were really low on water, food. And sanitary
conditions were pretty bad in the hotels in the French Quarter.
So, the hotels had to close their doors and they told us we would
be relocated to the Convention Center.
So, on Thursday morning, about 200 set out from
our hotel to the Convention Center. And, en route to the
Convention Center, we encountered the National Guard for the first
time and later the police. And they told us, we wouldn't be
allowed into the Superdome, that it had turned into a humanitarian
and health cesspool and that the Convention Center was also
closed. They didn't want any more people going there.
So, our natural reaction was, well, if the two
major shelters, we couldn't go to the Superdome or the Convention
Center, what do we do? And, essentially, we were told that
was our problem, that there was nothing they could do.
So, 200 or so of us decided, not having any
real option, that we would camp in front of the police command
post across from Harrah's and just sort of ride it out for a few
days to see what would develop. We were told we couldn't
stay there, but, again, we didn't have any other options. We
kind of set up camp and tried to stay out of the way as best we
And, after about an hour, a gentleman came out
and identified himself as a commander from the police command post
and said, I have a solution for you. I have some buses for
you across the bridge. All you need to do is walk up on
Highway 90, cross the bridge, and I have buses waiting to take you
away. And a big cheer went up among our crowd and people
started to move.
And Lorrie Beth and I were a little bit wary.
And we asked the commander two or three different times, are you
sure there are buses? There have been so much bad
information and wrong information. Are you sure there are
buses waiting for us across the bridge? He looked at the
crowd of 200 and he told us, I swear to you there are buses there.
So, we were pretty jubilant by then. So,
we set out, probably grinning ear to ear, pulling our luggage
behind us, heading up to the bridge. It's about a two- to
three-mile walk. And we had to walk past the Convention
Center. And here we are, a group of very determined-looking
tourists, who looked like we knew where we were going and people
were asking us, where are you going? What's going on?
We told them the good news, that there were
buses waiting for us. So, people were grabbing their meager
belongings and families were joining us and our numbers kept just
swelling and getting bigger and bigger.
Lorrie Beth Slonsky, Hurricane Survivor:
And this is where this group had doubled, like Larry said, like,
probably 400, 500, 600 people.
And we were making our way up the on-ramp when
it started pouring down rain. And here we are, a group of
people just about reaching the crest of the on-ramp when shots
were fired, which wasn't unusual, because we had been hearing
shots and sirens and helicopters all day long. But what was
frightening was that they were so close to us.
And when the shots went off, our group just
scattered. And we came down to probably a handful of people.
And this is the point where Larry had approached the sheriff's
department. I believe they're called deputies there with his
badge and his hands up and asked if we could approach. And
they still had their guns pointed directly at Larry and me and our
group of folks.
And they allowed us to approach. And
Larry explained that we were told to come across the bridge, so
that we could get on these buses. And we were turned back.
We were told we absolutely could not come on to the bridge, that
the deputy had told us, we are not going to have another New
Orleans, and we're not going to have another Superdome on the
other side of the bridge, which is Gretna.
So, pretty discouraged, we did turn around and
started to go back down, where we discovered an embankment area on
I think it is called the Pontchartrain Expressway. And we a
group of about 50, 60 70 people, found an area that was protected.
It was concrete this way and this way. And we made ourselves
inside of it.
Chris Matthews: What happened then,
BRADSHAW: Right at dusk, as we
were sort of settling in, feeling like we could ride this out for
three or four days, five days, until enough buses came to
transport us all out. ... All of a sudden, a Gretna sheriff's
patrol car showed up and an officer jumped out with his shotgun
aimed at us, screaming and yelling and cursing at us to 'get off
the F-ing freeway' and was just unapproachable, just would not let
us talk, would not let us say anything, was waving the gun in the
face of the families and children, and just chased us out of the
camp. It is now dark. It's martial law.
SLONSKY: Shoot-to-kill policy.
Chris Matthews: Well, was this a race
thing, Larry and Lorrie Beth? I want to bottom-line this.
Was this a racial incident, where there was prejudice against
people? Was your group largely African-American or mixed or
BRADSHAW: It was predominantly
African-American. And the only two explanations we ever
got... I saw the Gretna sheriff quoted in "The
Independent" on Sunday and he said, we couldn't let
"these people" cross the bridge or Gretna would have
looked like New Orleans, burned, looted and pillaged. So, I
believe it was about race.
Chris Matthews: Lorrie Beth, is that
SLONSKY: It is absolutely my
assessment. It had to do with a group of predominantly
African-American folks and maybe – I can count on one hand how
many white people. And he said it clearly himself, the
sheriff, in newspaper accounts. ... He is not denying that.
posted 9 September 2005/ interview added 18 September 2005
* * *
* * *
Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America
By Charles H. Ferguson
If you’re smart and a hard worker, but your parents aren’t rich, you’re now better off being born in Munich, Germany or in Singapore than in Cleveland, Ohio or New York. This radical shift did not happen by accident. Ferguson shows how, since the Reagan administration in the 1980s, both major political parties have become captives of the moneyed elite. It was the Clinton administration that dismantled the regulatory controls that protected the average citizen from avaricious financiers. It was the Bush team that destroyed the federal revenue base with its grotesquely skewed tax cuts for the rich. And it is the Obama White House that has allowed financial criminals to continue to operate unchecked, even after supposed “reforms” installed after the collapse of 2008.
Predator Nation reveals how once-revered figures like Alan Greenspan and Larry Summers became mere courtiers to the elite.
Based on many newly released court filings, it
details the extent of the crimes—there is no other
word—committed in the frenzied chase for wealth that
caused the financial crisis. And, finally, it
lays out a plan of action for how we might take back
our country and the American dream.—Read Chapter 1
* * * *
Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered
the World and Threatened Civilization as We Know It
By H. W. Brands
In Greenback Planet, acclaimed historian H. W. Brands charts the dollar's astonishing rise to become the world's principal currency. Telling the story with the verve of a novelist, he recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. Brands explores the dollar's changing relations to gold and silver and to other currencies and cogently explains how America's economic might made the dollar the fundamental standard of value in world finance. He vividly describes the 1869 Black Friday attempt to corner the gold market, banker J. P. Morgan's bailout of the U.S. treasury, the creation of the Federal Reserve, and President Franklin Roosevelt's handling of the bank panic of 1933. Brands shows how lessons learned (and not learned) in the Great Depression have influenced subsequent U.S. monetary policy, and how the dollar's dominance helped transform economies in countries ranging from Germany and Japan after World War II to Russia and China today.
* * *
Sex at the Margins
Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry
By Laura María Agustín
This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice.
"Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London
* * *
So Rich, So Poor: Why It's So Hard to End Poverty in America
By Peter Edelman
If the nation’s gross national income—over $14 trillion—were divided evenly across the entire U.S. population, every household could call itself middle class. Yet the income-level disparity in this country is now wider than at any point since the Great Depression. In 2010 the average salary for CEOs on the S&P 500 was over $1 million—climbing to over $11 million when all forms of compensation are accounted for—while the current median household income for African Americans is just over $32,000. How can some be so rich, while others are so poor? In this provocative book, Peter Edelman, a former top aide to Senator Robert F. Kennedy and a lifelong antipoverty advocate, offers an informed analysis of how this country can be so wealthy yet have a steadily growing number of unemployed and working poor. According to Edelman, we have taken important positive steps without which 25 to 30 million more people would be poor, but poverty fluctuates with the business cycle.
The structure of today’s economy has stultified wage
growth for half of America’s workers—with even worse
results at the bottom and for people of color—while bestowing billions on those at the top. So Rich, So Poor delves into what is happening to the people behind the statistics and takes a particular look at the continuing crisis of young people of color, whose possibility of a productive life too often is lost on their way to adulthood.—DemocracyNow
* * * * *
The White Masters
of the World
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
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Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /
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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding
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