Monday, September 26, 2005
The Negroes Were Rising
Monday, April 6 1741
About ten o'clock in the morning, there was an alarm of a fire at the house of serjeant Burns, opposite fort Garden....
Towards noon a fire broke out in the roof of Mrs. Hilton's house...on the East side of captain Sarly's house....Upon view, it was plain that the fire must have been purposely laid.... There was a cry among the people, the Spanish Negroes; the Spanish Negroes; take up the Spanish Negroes. The occasion of this was the two fires...happening so closely together....and it being known that Sarly had purchased a Spanish Negro, some time before brought into his port, among several others....and that they afterwards pretending to have been free men in their country, began to grumble at their hard usage, of being sold as slaves. This probably gave rise to the suspicion, that this Negro, out of revenge, had been the instrument of these two fires; and he behaving insolently upon some people's asking him questions concerning them...it was told to a magistrate who was near, and he ordered him to jail, and also gave direction to constables to commit all the rest of that cargo [of Africans], in order for their safe custody and examination....
While the justices were proceeding to examination, about four o'clock there was another alarm of fire....
While the people were extinguishing the fire at this storehouse, and had almost mastered it, there was another cry of fire, which diverted the people attending the storehouse to the new alarm...but a man who had been on the top of the house assisting in extinguishing the fire, saw a Negro leap out at the end window of one of them...which occasioned him to cry out...that the Negroes were rising....
I wrote quite a bit about the fear of the black mob being the real reason why the response to Katrina was delayed in New Orleans and how this fear has been imprinted on the collective lizard brain of America since the early days of our history.
It appears to have been true once again:
Following days of internationally reported murders, rapes and gang violence inside the stadium, the doctor from FEMA — Beron doesn't remember his name — came prepared for a grisly scene: He brought a refrigerated 18-wheeler and three doctors to process bodies.
"I've got a report of 200 bodies in the Dome," Beron recalled the doctor saying.
The real total?
Six, Beron said.
Of those, four died of natural causes, one overdosed and another jumped to his death in an apparent suicide, said Beron, who personally oversaw the handoff of bodies from a Dome freezer, where they lay atop melting bags of ice.
State health department officials in charge of body recovery put the official death count at the Dome at 10, but Beron said the other four bodies were found in the street near the Dome, not inside it. Both sources said no one had been murdered inside the stadium.
At the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, just four bodies have been recovered, despite reports of heaps of dead piled inside the building. Only one of the dead appeared to have been murdered, said health and law-enforcement officials.
That the nation's frontline emergency-management officials believed the body count would resemble that of a bloody battle in a war is but one of scores of examples of myths about the Dome and the Convention Center treated as fact by evacuees, the news media and even some of the city's top officials, including the mayor and police superintendent.
The vast majority of reported atrocities committed by evacuees — mass murders, rapes and beatings — have turned out to be false, or at least unsupported by any evidence, according to key military, law-enforcement, medical and civilian officials in positions to know.
"I think 99 percent of it is [expletive]," said Sgt. 1st Class Jason Lachney, who played a key role in security and humanitarian work inside the Dome. "Don't get me wrong — bad things happened. But I didn't see any killing and raping and cutting of throats or anything ... 99 percent of the people in the Dome were very well-behaved."
Dr. Louis Cataldie, the state Health and Human Services Department administrator overseeing the body-recovery operation, said his teams were inundated with false reports.
Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan said authorities have only confirmed four murders in the entire city in the aftermath of Katrina — making it a typical week in a city that anticipated more than 200 homicides this year.
"I had the impression that at least 40 or 50 murders had occurred at the two sites," he said. "It's unfortunate we saw these kinds of stories saying crime had taken place on a massive scale when that wasn't the case. And they [national media outlets] have done nothing to follow up on any of these cases; they just accepted what people [on the street] told them. ... It's not consistent with the highest standards of journalism."
It is, however, entirely consistent with a peculiar type of racism that sees a large group of African Americans as a recipe for violence and anarchy in the absence of strict control. And it's this racism --- not the kind of racism that would have had George W. Bush saying that he couldn't be bothered saving people because he hates blacks --- that played into the death and destruction of Katrina. We've managed to drive a lot of that overt hostility underground in the lat 40 years. The racist fear, however, is stoked every time a wily politician runs on the "law and order" platform.
Even the cops -- or maybe especially the cops --- were whipped into a frenzy:
As floodwaters forced tens of thousands of evacuees into the Dome and Convention Center, news of unspeakable acts poured out of the nation's media: People firing at helicopters trying to save them; women, children and even babies raped with abandon; people murdered for food and water; a 7-year-old raped and killed at the Convention Center.
Police, according to their chief, Eddie Compass, found themselves in multiple shootouts inside both shelters, and were forced to race toward muzzle flashes through the dark to disarm the criminals; snipers fired at doctors and soldiers from downtown high-rises.
In interviews with Oprah Winfrey, Compass reported rapes of "babies," and Mayor Ray Nagin spoke of "hundreds of armed gang members killing and raping people" inside the Dome. Other unidentified evacuees told of children stepping over so many bodies "we couldn't count."
The picture that emerged was one of the impoverished, overwhelmingly African-American masses of flood victims resorting to utter depravity, randomly attacking each other, as well as the police trying to protect them and the rescue workers trying to save them. The mayor told Winfrey the crowd has descended to an "almost animalistic state."
Four weeks after the storm, few of the widely reported atrocities have been backed with evidence. The piles of murdered bodies never materialized, and soldiers, police officers and rescue personnel on the front lines assert that, while anarchy reigned at times and people suffered indignities, most of the worst crimes reported at the time never happened.
"The information I had at the time, I thought it was credible," Compass said, admitting his earlier statements were false. Asked the source of the information, Compass said he didn't remember.
Nagin frankly acknowledged he doesn't know the extent of the mayhem that occurred inside the Superdome and the Convention Center — and may never. "I'm having a hard time getting a good body count," he said.
Compass conceded that rumor had overtaken, and often crippled, authorities' response to reported lawlessness, sending badly needed resources to situations that turned out not to exist.
Military, law-enforcement and medical workers agree that the flood of evacuees — about 30,000 at the Dome and an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 at the Convention Center — overwhelmed their security personnel.
The 400 to 500 soldiers in the Dome could have been easily overrun by increasingly agitated crowds in the Dome, but that never happened, said Col. James Knotts, a midlevel commander there. While the Convention Center saw plenty of mischief, including massive looting and isolated gunfire, and many inside cowered in fear, the hordes of evacuees for the most part did not resort to violence.
"Everything was embellished, everything was exaggerated," said Deputy Police Superintendent Warren Riley. "If one guy said he saw six bodies, then another guy the same six, and another guy saw them — then that became 18."
Inside the Superdome, where National Guardsmen performed rigorous security checks before allowing anyone inside, only one shooting has been verified — and even that shooting, injuring Louisiana Guardsman Chris Watt of the 527th Engineer Battalion, has been widely misreported, said Maj. David Baldwin, who led the team of soldiers who arrested the alleged assailant.
Watt had indeed been attacked inside one of the Dome's locker rooms, where he entered with another soldier. In the darkness, as they walked through about six inches of water, Watt's attacker hit him with a metal rod, a piece of a cot. But the bullet that penetrated Watt's leg came from his own gun — he accidentally shot himself during the commotion. The attacker was sent to jail, Baldwin said.
Inside the Convention Center, Jimmie Fore, vice president of the state authority that runs the center, stayed in the building with a core group of 35 employees until Thursday. He said thugs hot-wired 75 forklifts and electric carts and looted food and booze, but he said he never saw any violent crimes committed, nor did any of his employees. Some, however, did report seeing armed men roaming the building, and Fore said he heard gunshots in the distance on about six occasions.
Rumors of rampant violence at the Convention Center prompted Louisiana National Guard Col. Jacques Thibodeaux to put together a 1,000-man force of soldiers and police in full battle gear to secure the center around noon on Friday.
It took only 20 minutes to take control, and soldiers met no resistance, Thibodeaux said. They found no evidence, witnesses or victims of any murders, rapes or beatings, Thibodeaux said.
One widely circulated story, told to The Times-Picayune by a slew of evacuees and two Arkansas National Guardsman, held that "30 or 40 bodies" were stored in a Convention Center freezer.
But a formal Arkansas Guard review of the matter later found that no soldier had actually seen the corpses, and that the information came from rumors in the food line for military, police and rescue workers in front of Harrah's Casino, said Col. John Edwards of the Arkansas National Guard, who conducted the review.
I doubt that this will get the kind of wide coverage that the initial reports did. And those initial reports clearly indicate that relief was held back because of the alleged anarchy in the streets:
Violence disrupted relief efforts Thursday in New Orleans as authorities rescued desperate residents still trapped in the flooded city and tried to evacuate thousands of others living among corpses and human waste.
Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown said his agency was attempting to work "under conditions of urban warfare."
Police snipers were stationed on the roof of their precinct, trying to protect it from armed miscreants roaming seemingly at will.
Officers warned a CNN crew to stay off the streets because of escalating danger, and cautioned others about attempted shootings and rapes by groups of young men.
They had to wait for more National Guard to put down the crazy violence. Remember, nobody could come in with relief supplies because it was too dangerous.
About 24,000 National Guard members will be in Louisiana and Mississippi by the end of the week to combat looting and quell gunfire that disrupted the rescue of survivors of Hurricane Katrina.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said today at a news conference that 1,400 will go to New Orleans daily for the next three days, expanding a force of 3,000 that's trying to maintain order in a city flooded and left without power by the storm three days ago.
Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco said National Guardsmen from Arkansas were prepared to use deadly force as they try to restore order in New Orleans, the Times-Picayune reported.
Blanco said at a news conference today that the guardsmen ``know how to shoot to kill ... and I expect they will,'' the New Orleans newspaper said.
Some rescue operations by the Federal Emergency Management Agency were suspended in areas where gunfire broke out, Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said in Washington, the Associated Press reported. People trying to board amphibious vehicles outside New Orleans's Charity Hospital were shot at while trying to evacuate, Cable News Network reported.
The Bush administration Official Katrina Talking Point these days is directed entirely at this situation. They are making the case that if the federal government had had direct control of the situation they could have called in the National Guard instead of ebing forced to wait for the hormonal, hysterical Kathleen Blanco to stop wringing her flighty hands and ask for them. The rationale seems to be that if they could have "secured" the city earlier there would have been a quicker response.
But it was fear of the black mob that prevented the relief agencies from entering the city --- a paranoid delusion. The red cross and others could have come into the city days earlier. There were those who said that they shouldn't be allowed to provide food and water because the evacuees would allegedly be so content that they would not be inclined to leave. But they were also told that they'd be mobbed by the crazed crowd and perhaps killed by the roving gangs of armed thugs who were raping babies and killing anyone who got in their way.
They have been able to confirm four murders in New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina. The same number that there would have been if Katrina had not hit. One of them took place at the Convention Center. There were no murders at the Superdome. The cop who was famously shot down by a roving gang actually shot himself in the leg by accident.
We don't know how many people died because people were so afraid of the black mob that they would not allow relief workers with food, water and medical help into the city in the days after the flooding. I wonder if this tragic little lady made it to a more dignified place to live out her last days.
Dorothy Divic, 89, is surrounded by onlookers trying to keep her alive on a street outside the New Orleans Convention Center September 1, 2005. Several people among the thousands of stranded hurricane evacuees have died while waiting outside the building, with no sign of imminent help on the way. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Update: If you've been denied the opportunity to read this widely disseminated e-maim Snopes has it in its entirety. It starts off like this:
I've been watching the news lately and have seen scenes that have made me want to vomit. And no it wasn't dead bodies, the city under water, or the sludge everywhere. It was PEOPLE'S BEHAVIOR. The people on T.V. (99% being Black) were DEMANDING help. They were not asking nicely but demanding as if society owed these people something. Well the honest truth is WE DON'T.
Help should be asked for in a kind manner and then appreciated. This is not what the press (FOX in particular) was showing, what I was seeing was a group of people who are yelling, demanding, looting, killing, raping, and SHOOTING back at the demanded help!
And so it goes. And FoxNews is reporting that authorities are doing backround checks on evacuees who are seeking shelter and over half have criminal records.
"It's a balancing act," said Kyle Smith, deputy director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (search). "We don't want to treat them like criminals after they have been traumatized, but we want to make sure they are in no danger nor the families they are housed with."
No word on those who have enough money to stay in hotels. Lock up the white women.
I am aware that both Compass and Nagin are black. African Americans were also usually the ones who blew the whistle on slave revolts. It's a complicated psychology. Certainly one can understand why people in jobs of trust and authority would want to distance themselves from a group that is so widely feared and reviled.
digby 9/26/2005 03:15:00 PM