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News :: Human Rights
Katrina survivors still face hardship
16 Feb 2006
Lorraine Ervin, a returning New Orleans resident, summed up the sentiment and resolve of many Katrina survivors in the press release from PHRF: “We are refugees in our own country. Where are our tax dollars that we’ve paid all of our lives? Why can $60 billion dollars go toward war in Iraq? There is no way we should be here [in the U.S.] begging... I will fight for my rights.”
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Homeland Security let New Orleans drown
Katrina survivors still face hardship

By LeiLani Dowell

While Congressional and Senate investigations expose the bungling of federal and local authorities in the immediate aftermath of Katrina, current-day negligence has led to more despair -and resistance-by Katrina survivors.

The draft of a report by an all-Republican committee on Feb. 12 called the government response to Katrina a “national failure... of initiative.” The draft notes predictions about the storm that went unheeded for up to 24 hours, the lack of preparation to evacuate people from the area, and the dismissal of a report that a major levee had been breached. The draft goes on to say that “At every level—individual, corporate, philanthropic and governmental—we failed to meet the challenge that was Katrina. In this cautionary tale, all the little pigs built houses of straw.”

Meanwhile, Senate hearings on the same issue continue. On Feb. 10, fired and disgraced former FEMA head Michael Brown testified. The New York Times reports, “Mr. Brown said that he told a senior White House official early on of the New Orleans flooding, and that the administration was too focused on terrorism to respond properly to natural disasters.” And on Feb. 15, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff faced the committee. Senators questioned, among other things, why he decided to travel to Atlanta to attend a conference unrelated to Katrina the day after the storm struck.

What is conspicuously absent from media reports about these two investigations is inquiry into current neglect. In response to the draft report, a White House spokesperson told the New York Times that “President Bush was now focused on the future.” However, this does not seem to translate to relief for Katrina survivors. On Feb. 7 about 4,500 survivors across the country were told to evacuate their hotel rooms because the Federal Emer gency Management Agency would no longer be paying for their hotel stays. The rest—occupants of at least 20,000 hotel rooms, according to the Associated Press, were given extensions of only one to three weeks. A judge on Feb. 13 upheld FEMA’s decision to drop survivors from the program.

Protests were held across the country to denounce the evictions. In New York survivors, with the support of legal advocates and solidarity activists, have won a reprieve on their eviction from hotels in the city. Using a city law stating that legal evictions must be done through court proceedings and by court order, 17 families at the Radisson won an indefinite stay on their eviction. Armed with that victory, activists on Feb. 13 went to hotels across the city to distribute legal fact sheets to let survivors know their rights, while legal aid lawyers filed the same motion won at the Radisson to extend to all the hotels.

While evictions continue across the country, leaving many with no place to go, FEMA trailers continue to sit unused. Activists with the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund (PHRF) rallied on Feb. 12 at a FEMA trailer site on a lot in the New Orleans’ Eighth Ward, where approximately 100 such uninhabited trailers reside. The rally was to demand that the trailers be made immediately available to all those facing eviction. According to the group’s press release, “The trailers are apparently hooked up to power and have plumbing, but are not being used to provide much-needed shelter for the 10,000-plus New Orleans residents that have come back to rebuild their homes and their lives.”

In Hope, Ark., FEMA placed 10,770 of its brand-new, completely furnished trailers at an airport that was once a military base. The trailers remain empty. FEMA not only intends to keep these trailers there, but is planning to lay down a 290-acre gravel bed beneath them, at a cost of $6 million, according to the Feb. 10 Los Angeles Times.

Under the Stafford Act, FEMA is required to provide local transitional housing and rental assistance to the survivor’s workplace for eighteen months after a disaster. The Times article quotes FEMA spokesperson Nicol Andrews, who says that part of the blame for the distant location of the trailers lies with the fact that “only eight of Louisiana’s 64 parishes have welcomed them.”

The will of local officials to carry forward with the gentrification of the region - denying the poorest, mostly Black survivors the resources and support to return - is also reflected in the upcoming elections in New Orleans, now scheduled for April 22 although many residents have not yet been able to return. The Washington D.C.-based Advancement Project filed a lawsuit that says the election plan, which plans to use some form of absentee voting to reach evacuees, will in effect freeze many Black voters out of the process.

The Associated Press notes that, “The most striking aspect of the race is the number of prominent white business leaders and politicians who have jumped into the fray. Incumbent Mayor Ray Nagin remains the only Black candidate among more than half a dozen hopefuls.” The last white mayor in the city completed his term in 1978.

The AP article quotes New Orleans political analyst Silas Lee, who says, “Everything reflects the effects of Hurricane Katrina on the demographics of the city.... [T]hat impacted how many white candidates perceive their political fortunes.”

Groups like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Policy Alliance, which is comprised of leaders from a number of national Black organizations, have also issued calls against the election and threatened to hold demonstrations and take further legal action.

Meanwhile, those stuck in the prison-industrial complex in New Orleans will be incarcerated for even longer without a trial. A district judge suspended all the cases in his section on Feb. 10, citing a lack of public defenders, on which 80 percent of all criminal defendants in the city rely. The Times-Picayune says that other judges are expected to take similar action, and therefore “More than 3,500 pre-Katrina defendants and about 1,000 defendants arrested since the storm could be thrown in limbo.”

Lorraine Ervin, a returning New Orleans resident, summed up the sentiment and resolve of many Katrina survivors in the press release from PHRF: “We are refugees in our own country. Where are our tax dollars that we’ve paid all of our lives? Why can $60 billion dollars go toward war in Iraq? There is no way we should be here [in the U.S.] begging... I will fight for my rights.”

-- 30 --

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Re: Katrina survivors still face hardship
16 Feb 2006
Up here in the Northern Plains we just recovered from a Historic event --- may I even say a "Weather Event" of "Biblical Proportions" --- with a historic blizzard of up to 44" inches of snow and winds to 90 MPH that broke trees in half, knocked down utility poles, stranded hundreds of motorists in lethal snow banks, closed ALL roads, isolated scores of communities and cut power to 10's of thousands.

* George Bush did not come..
* FEMA did nothing..
* No one howled for the government...
* No one blamed the government
* No one even uttered an expletive on TV...
* Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton did not visit
* Our Mayor's did not blame Bush or anyone else
* Our Governor did not blame Bush or anyone else either
* CNN, ABC, CBS, FOX, or NBC did not visit - or report on this category 5 snow storm ;
* Nobody demanded $2,000 debit cards.....
* No one asked for a FEMA Trailer House....
* No one looted...
* Nobody - I mean Nobody demanded the government do something
* Nobody expected the government to do anything either
* No Larry King, No Bill O'Rielly, No Oprah, No Chris Mathews and No GeraldoRivera
* No Shaun Penn, No Barbra Striesand, No Hollywood types to be found And
* Nope, we just melted the snow for water
* Sent out caravans of SUV's to pluck people out of snow engulfed cars
* The truck drivers pulled people out of snow banks and didn't ask for a penny
* Local restaurants made food and the police and fire departments delivered it to the snow bound families
* Families took in the stranded people - total strangers
* We Fired up wood stoves
* Broke out coal oil lanterns or coleman lanterns
* We put on an extra layers of clothes because up here it is "Work or Die"
* We did not wait for some affirmative action government to get us out of a mess created by being immobilized by a welfare program that trades votes for 'sittin at home' checks.
* Even though a Category "5" blizzard of this scale has never fallen this early...we know it can happen and how to deal with it
Re: Katrina survivors still face hardship
16 Feb 2006
Ah joe, did over 1500 people die like in Katrina? Were half a million homes destroyed? Was the prevention available, but just underfunded?

Funny how per capita North Dakota gets more federal money than LA.