Sunday, November 20, 2005

New Orleans - A whole different ball game

We enjoyed our last breakfast in the bright, clean common room of Hands on USA and said our goodbyes. We drove the short distance from Biloxi to New Orleans and pulled of Rt 10 onto Franklin Blvd at about 10 am.

What we saw was nothing like Biloxi. I really don't know how to describe it. This was a poor community before the hurricanes, but it was alive and filled with people. As we entered the 9th ward it felt like we were driving into a ghost town. Where Biloxi had maybe 60 percent of its businesses closed the 9th looks almost deserted. Lots of damage, less violent than in Biloxi but most of the damage and debris looks untouched. Most traffic lights are out, not that there's any traffic.

The Common Ground 'Convergence Center' is meant to house the mass of expected volunteers and act as a central dispatch for work crews. The center is located in a warehouse that has had hasty repairs made to it. No power. Showers are half done. Xmas lights strung through the halls are powered by a touchy generator. Its disorganized, but we are also early.

The good news is that I get to use my tools right off. Rossana and I help on half a dozen projects to help get the center up and running. We set up the car port we brought with us and instantly doubled the cooking area. Sleeping arrangements consist of several open rooms with matresses obtained from some prison. The place HAS been cleaned and still reeks of pine scent. We decide that some privacy would be very nice and spend an hour trying to find the area set aside for tenting. In the end we found it, a former day care center that CG cleaned out and renovated in exchange for free use for three months. It's empty as few people seem to have brought camping gean. We set up and drove back for the orientation meeting. It started late and was poorly run. These are mostly college age kids here. Lots of energy and enthusiasm. They want to make the world a better place. Some have hippie names like Starhawk and Sunshine. We cover the group, it's mission, what they hope to accomplish!
and the general plan of attack. We were told that indeed the cops here can be assholes. Several CG people have been arrested on BS charges.

Tomorrow will really tell. We saw and did a lot today. After the meeting we had an healthy meal prepared by an organic farmer to thank us for our work.

No pics as there is no wireless, just my phone. I got my first scare just before turning in. Rossana went to use the porta john while I carried our backpacks to the side yard where our tent is. Suddenly I see the bright blue strobing lights of the NOPD by the front of the house. My heart skips a beat and I run for the front of the house tearing my utility knife and leatherman tool off my belt frantically so I won't be percieved as 'armed'. But by the time I get to the front I can see that the cop has actually pulled over a black motorist a bit down the road. Rossana was shaken too.

This is a whole different ball game.

10 comments:

Ed said...

Steve, be careful with that pick axe!

http://blogs.washingtonpost.com/securityfix/2005/11/major_internet_.html

Only kidding, I'm sure you are not the one responsible for cutting that line . . .

Goodman said...

Watch yourself Steve. New Orleans was one of the most dangerous cities in America before it turned into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. You're smart to beware of the cops, but don't forget, they're not the only dangerous people out there.

Anonymous said...

"for the front of the house tearing my utility knife and leatherman tool off my belt frantically so I won't be percieved as 'armed'"

Umm Steve it's not illegal to have a knife or a leatherman on your belt. And if you run towards the police car while pulling a knife out of your belt your belt you may be concidered a threat.

Also it is not concidered a concealed weapon if it is on your belt, if you shove a pocket knife in your pocket it is then concidered concealed.

Just be careful and don't worry too much about the cops. Take care of that foot too. Try some talcom powder in your boots and carry a extra pair of socks with you and change your socks as often as possible.

Kollin

Goodman said...

>Just be careful and don't worry too much about the cops.

Er, Kollin, did you miss it when Steve linked here? The New Orleans cops have always been very bad news. And if you think that having the law on your side necessarily protects you from the cops, well...

Anonymous said...

Goodman, did you bother to look at the requirements to publish an artical on that site? It's a completely open and unverified site for posting. Anyone can publish any shit that they want too. http://neworleans.indymedia.org/news/2005/11/6414.php

I just wrote that. I used Goodman and Pack and mentioned Ohio, I even used part of Steves blog for locations and used a 9/11 orginization America Helps as the orginization in question. Hell you can see my yahoo email address.

Here you can go publish your own story.

http://neworleans.indymedia.org/publish.php

Now I not going to say that all of the stories from that site are unfounded but I bet that a majority of them are.

Kollin

Anonymous said...

LOL http://neworleans.indymedia.org/news/

Kollin

Goodman said...

You're a dick, Kollin.













Over the past 10 years or more, numerous NOPD officers have been convicted of a whole array of serious crimes, including drug dealing and murder.

Two officers, convicted in the mid-1990s for different offences, are currently on death row. But the problems go beyond those extreme cases.

For a substantial number of people in New Orleans, corruption and brutality go hand-in-hand with the NOPD.

"We're glad the army's here, because they're protecting us from the NOPD," we heard a few times.

-BBC

The city had 192 homicides by mid-August - a rate nine times higher than New York City's and an increase of almost 20 percent above what had been the country's highest murder rate in 2004. That led many in the city to fear a return to the middle 1990s, when New Orleans's murder rate led the country and police problems made national headlines.

A rise in complaints of excessive force in the months before the storm hit New Orleans on Aug. 29 also worried watchdog groups and local advocates.
...
Peter Scharf, a University of New Orleans criminologist who has consulted with the department, said [...] "there was a drip-drip every day," he said. "The public's perception of the department before the hurricane was that they were pretty much out of control."

-Dallas Morning News

In March 2004, the Times-Picayune reported the arrest of two officers for threatening citizens in the French Quarter with arrest for public drunkenness if they didn't withdraw hundreds of dollars from ATMs and hand the money over. The newspaper later reported that one of the officers pleaded guilty to state charges.

A police officer was arrested on federal conspiracy charges in April 2004 after plotting to rob the bank branch where he did off-duty security work. He eventually received an 11 and 1/2 year federal prison sentence.

-Dallas Morning News

Kollin said...

"The above post was a "prank"
by Mister Goodman Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2005 at 7:25 PM
mistergoodman@hotmail.com

The above post was a prank, posted by the asshole "friend" of an actual New Orleans volunteer."

I guess you didn't like my demo but it does point out a fact or two.

1. The stories on that website are completely unconfirmed and anyone can post what ever BS they want.

2. If there was wide spread descrimintation and police brutality
don't you think there would be a lot more coverage of it, concidering the liberal media that currently rules the airwaves.
You recently posted some great quotes which I will get to in the end of this post.

3. Yes I am an asshole.

4. Never assume that I'm a "friend" of Steve and Rosanna. I've known both of them for 15 years, I've been a guest in their home(s)
and I was there when Steve married his awesome wife (who can easily kick my butt :) I may not agree with everything he believes in
but I support him and will always back his play (ya know Steve.. that guy in that place...) So basically please don't question my
loyality to my friends, it is absolute.


"In his black suit, white shirt and dark tie, Jim Bernazzani could not be anything but an FBI man.

We met him in one of the FBI's favourite watering holes, a grand southern mansion, damaged by Katrina and Hurricane Rita.

He argues that the NOPD has been the victim of a failed judicial system, which has let criminals off the hook, so undermining public confidence."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/crossing_continents/4461518.stm

There were also growing indications of systemic problems across the criminal justice system, he and others say.

At the start of 2004, a survey of police found that officers were fleeing the department in alarming numbers because of low morale, poor pay, a problematic promotion system and frustration over a residency requirement that made officers stay in the city to keep jobs even as housing costs soared and the public school system foundered.

A crime commission study released in August showed that the same people were getting arrested over and over and serious criminals rarely went to prison. The study found that only 16 percent of repeat offenders arrested in 2003 and 2004 actually were convicted in criminal courts.

Only 12 percent of people arrested in slayings in that period were convicted on homicide charges, the study found in a sampling of more than 1,700 cases. More than half of all murder arrests were declined for prosecution by the district attorney's office.

Prosecutors said they were hamstrung because witnesses often were too scared to testify, and juries frequently doubted police.

Casbon, chairman of the New Orleans Police Foundation, said police and the district attorney's office had begun taking steps to address those problems. Foundation-funded consultants began to try to improve communications, coordinate intelligence and monitor handling of cases as they moved through the system.

http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/news/nation/13000272.htm

“This is unprecedented in our country,” said Dr. Howard Osofsky, chairman of psychiatry at the LSU Medical School Health Sciences Department. “There is no disaster that has had the amount of trauma for a department that this has, where so many police officers have lost homes, been separated from their families, had loved ones living in other places with no idea when they’ll return.”

Not even the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 have matched the strain produced by the hurricane and its ensuing rescues, evacuations and searches for the living and dead, said Osofsky, who is working with New Orleans officers and their families.

“The 9/11 attacks were very different,” he said. “Following 9/11 there was a known enemy, a known situation. And even though the two buildings were destroyed and lives lost, the people who survived could go to their homes. The city of New York was not destroyed, the country around it was not destroyed.”

80 percent of NOPD without homes
Like about 80 percent of the New Orleans force, 46-year-old Ronald Gillard, a 15-year veteran, lost his house to the storm. But when the winds died down, he was back at work.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6448213/did/9654444

It looks like there is as many stories about the NOPD being overworked, stressed, fraught with political difficulties, low pay and frustrating enviroment as there is about them being mean, mean men that beat people. It's funny though... I wonder which one looks better on the evening news?


Now you may not agree with me and thats ok, its a free country, disagree as much as you want too, I disagree with Steve but we are still friends. I'm just trying to point out that N.O. and the police department haven't turned into a bunch of SS officers. Also my first comment was about the legality of having a multitool in your hand (which can be concidered a weapon) on your belt (which makes it not a weapon) or fully in your pocket (which it is concidered a concealed weapon). I just want Steve to come home safe and kill what ever is trying to slowly eat his foot.

PS yea I'm a dick but I shouldn't be concidered one for sparking healthy debate. Now if your referring to me kicking orphans and stealing lolly pops from infants... well then your right :)

Steve said...

Boys boys, you're both right. Being a cop in New Orleans is a shitty job. But just because you live and work in a tough town is no reason to abuse the poblics trust. When you do so, you lower the image of the police as an institution.

The Police in Algiers, where Common Ground started have been dicks. People working in that area need to watch their backs. Several unjust arrests have occoured there. And the National Guard troops frequently act as a buffer between the groups.
Over in the Ninth Ward the police of the 5th precinct not far from the Community Distribution Center have turned out to be pretty cool after some initial wariness. They have to live in the area they work and they now see the volunteers as a benefit not a threat.

The trouble is I don't know who is in that patrol car. I don't know his story. Is he a good ole boy who thinks all the blacks are criminals or is he just a guy trying to do his job while his family is living out of a hotel and waiting for a FEMA trailer.

The parties down here are not an ALL or NOTHING proposition. But to be safe we tend to try and play it safe. Now that a large part of the police force is gone there is a strong push to create a civilian oversight board to help keep the police honest. We'll see.

Anonymous said...

to Kollin

Thanks for vandalizing an important news source during a time of emergency. We are in fact a real news source, and we have if fact broken many important stories due to our open publishing format. Police in our city actually Rape and Kill poeple, for reals, seriously, and the newspapers report barely any of it. We are trying to defend oursleves, please respect this fact, we take police butality very seriously do to the constant violence. I am just one member of our group that has been illegally harassed by the police. One of my friends has been threatened with rape by the police since the hurricane, and of course you may have seen the recent beating and shoting photages, that made national news.

It was a text message to our site that broke the story of the Doctors and Patients stuck in the hospitol after the hurricane.

Please respect the fact that, just because you can destroy or damage something, doesn't mean you shouldn't demostrate a certain level of personal self control, allowing good things to happen unmolested.