Pepper Sprayed, Tasered and Determined in New Orleans
There was a tornado warning on Thursday, December 20th, with a cool front marching down south. The tornado that touched down though, was the incredible spirit, will and determination of those fighting for public, and affordable housing in this city, and taking on the NOPD and New Orleans City Council in the process.
We were prepared, Thursday, to challenge what we already knew would go down: the vote in the affirmative by the New Orleans City Council to demolish over 4000 units of critical, public and affordable housing in New Orleans. Our intent was to keep the meeting from happening, to prevent the vote, by peaceful, but loud, raucous protest. There was no intent to commit violence. Many of us were quite willing to be arrested. One of the principles decided on by public housing residents in this struggle is that it will be a non-violent struggle.
There were not now, nor have there ever been, plans to commit violence by any of our people. However, when people are physically attacked by police, sometimes you fight back. You can call it instinct, survival, or foolhardy, call it what you will, but human nature being what it is, sometimes people fight back. The first punch was thrown by the NOPD however, which you can observe by watching the above video.
I was one of those locked out that day. I brought my camera, fully intending to document even though locked out. We were behind and to the side of council chambers, locked out by virtue of a pair of handcuffs on the gate that encloses a covered driveway behind the chambers.
Police lined that covered driveway, and we knew there were significant numbers in the chambers. We received phone reports that our colleagues had prevented the meeting from beginning, by chanting and shouting and demanding that those locked out be allowed in.
Suddenly, from the outside, we saw at least 10 police officers rush into the building. We knew it was going down inside. We all began to scream and some of us shook the gate violently. We wanted in to help defend our sisters and brothers.
Duranta has a lot more on this. While Common Dreams has this up from Naomi Klein:
The Shock Doctrine in Action in New Orleans
by Naomi Klein
Readers of The Shock Doctrine know that one of the most shameless examples of disaster capitalism has been the attempt to exploit the disastrous flooding of New Orleans to close down that city’s public housing projects, some of the only affordable units in the city. Most of the buildings sustained minimal flood damage, but they happen to occupy valuable land that make for perfect condo developments and hotels.
The final showdown over New Orleans public housing is playing out in dramatic fashion right now. The conflict is a classic example of the “triple shock” formula at the core of the doctrine.
- First came the shock of the original disaster: the flood and the traumatic evacuation.
- Next came the “economic shock therapy”: using the window of opportunity opened up by the first shock to push through a rapid-fire attack on the city’s public services and spaces, most notably it’s homes, schools and hospitals.
- Now we see that as residents of New Orleans try to resist these attacks, they are being met with a third shock: the shock of the police baton and the Taser gun, used on the bodies of protestors outside New Orleans City Hall yesterday.
Democracy Now! has been covering this fight all week, with amazing reports from filmmakers Jacquie Soohen and Rick Rowley (Rick was arrested in the crackdown). Watch residents react to the bulldozing of their homes here.
And footage from yesterday’s police crackdown and Tasering of protestors inside and outside city hall here.
That last segment contains a terrific interview with Kali Akuno, executive director of the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund. Akuno puts the demolitions in the big picture, telling Amy Goodman:
This is just one particular piece of this whole program. Public hospitals are also being shut down and set to be demolished and destroyed in New Orleans. And they’ve systematically dismantled the public education system and beginning demolition on many of the schools in New Orleans–that’s on the agenda right now–and trying to totally turn that system over to a charter and a voucher system, to privatize and just really go forward with a major experiment, which was initially laid out by the Heritage Foundation and other neoconservative think tanks shortly after the storm. So this is just really the fulfillment of this program.
Akuno is referring to the Heritage Foundation’s infamous post-Katrina meeting with the Republican Study Group in which participants laid out their plans to turn New Orleans into a Petri dish for every policy they can’t ram through without a disaster. Read the minutes on my website.