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Cindy’s Hero: Katrina Deaths Due To Whites

More reports from Mother Sheehan’s " bright spot," Moslem radical, Malik Rahim — excerpted from the comrades at the Socialist Worker :

A Socialist Workerjournal
Report from the Gulf Coast

Algiers neighborhood in New Orleans

When we arrived at Malik’s house, we were greeted by his partner Sharon, who beckoned us inside, offered us water and fruit, and thanked us for coming. She told us that Malik was out with some Danish filmmakers, and that he would be back soon. She was answering the phone, which was ringing off the hook, and trying to keep a semblance of civilized life despite doing without electricity for close to two weeks now. Her bright personality and strength, despite the circumstances, shone through, but it was clear that the situation had taken its toll. She explained that she hadn’t really left their home for three days running. It was just too much to take in, she explained, seeing their neighborhood like this.

Malik and the Danish journalists returned for a moment, and Malik invited us to tag along as he checked on residents and got in touch with others like him who are coordinating the delivery of supplies to those who don’t have the vehicles or health to find their own. We followed him to a local free school to deliver some supplies. We talked to Suma, an older woman with beautiful graying dreadlocks who runs the People’s Village Cultural Arts center school. She said she was going to have to leave to get some medical care.

“I have seven children,” said Suma. “I have grand- and great-great grand children. We’ll regroup. Life’s got to go on. Algiers Point, they want this whole thing. Who wants it? Developers. And who are developers? White folks. They can make a nice retirement area. I travel, and I’ve never seen houses stacked so close. They’re going to bulldoze all these houses down. They don’t want us here.”

“We’re just like the rats in a tank. They did research on rats by putting up these project buildings. You should’ve been here when the wind blew them down. And they’re going to put up houses. How can houses house all the people that come out of project buildings that look like prisons?

“There was a lot of looting here at the beginning, then all of a sudden, it was quiet. All the looters were gone. There was all kinds of shooting. I didn’t see it, but word gets around. Police shooting people, people shooting people. And there were vigilantes in Algiers Point. It’s a white area… They want to keep that area strictly Point. You go in there, and there’s still houses that were plantations. We know better than to go in there at certain times.

Chico, a tall and powerful-looking man wearing a colorful knitted hat, was standing and listening to the conversation. He suddenly burst in: “I’ve been all in there. I’ve been down all through it. When they had the barricades, and the woman kept calling on the phone, saying that people were shooting at them, that was a lie. That was a bald-faced lie. I’ve been all through there, and I’ve distributed food to elderly white people back there. I must have distributed over half a million dollars worth of food.

When we asked if the most of the help had come from residents or the Red Cross and FEMA, a smile flashed across Chico’s face.

“People have asked me, ‘How could you get all this stuff.’ I told them it was top secret, but I got it. I told the military, ‘I can feed you better than you feed yourself.’”

Felony ex-con and former Black Panther, Malik Rahim, and his wife Sharon.

Malik came along and asked us to follow him again. He wanted to show us something. He took us to the Arthur Monday clinic. “This is the health clinic, you know,” he said. “It’s got a chain on it. We have a dead body right here that’s been here for 12 days. They can’t even come up with a body bag. We’ve been covering it up [with a piece of corrugated metal], and that’s all it is. All they’ve done is put an ‘X’ on it. It’s not like it’s floating in the water, or they can’t get to it. They just refuse to pick it up. And this has terrified people. That’s all they did, come and put that ‘X’ on there.”

Malik went to the body and removed the piece of corrugated metal with a big red “X” on it, and then pulled off some of the blanket. We saw the decomposing body of what appeared to be a man, maybe in his 30s or 40s.

“You can see the maggots eating his corpse up,” he said. “It’s been 12 days out in this hot sun, and they won’t move him. There’s no reason for this. It’s just blatant neglect. If it was a white guy, this would have been up. This is the kind of stuff that’s terrifying people and making them not want to stay here. Right by a health clinic, and they won’t even pick it up. And it’s getting hotter and hotter. And I know you all smell it.”

He put the blanket and the metal back on. “We put this on to stop the wind, because every day, the wind would blow the blanket off, and the kids pass by here and are seeing this,” he said. “So we put this on. We called the police. And all the police did was put that X there. They didn’t even try to move it. Just put a little ‘x’ on it, like ‘x’ marks the spot, and we’re going to leave it.

“They got about 18 bodies like this around Algiers, and there’s no reason for them to be here. We’ve got the military walking around, and they’re securing everything. And they’re talking about the health crisis. They’re creatingthe health crisis.”

But the really terrifying question is what caused these 18 deaths. Algiers, on the West Bank of the Mississippi River, hasn’t had the catastrophic flooding of the East Bank. No one drowned or was trapped in a house on this side of the river. So we asked Malik how these bodies came to be here.

“Most of them were killed by the police, or by these vigilante groups, when they were around,” he said. “There wasn’t any flooding. Most people killed over in Algiers were killed either by the police or by vigilante groups. Because if you’re Black, and you have a weapon, you’re dead. They would literally shoot you down.

“The only time we had order is when the National Guard and army came in. Before that, it was pure chaos. I cannot express how evenhanded they’ve treated everybody. It isn’t like the police, where there’s one set of justice for whites, and another set of justice for Blacks.

“We have Black doctors who tried to get in here from Atlanta, and they were turned around. And then we had a group of white guys who came in to give us a hand, and they were allowed to come through.

Malik served in Vietnam in 1965, going over with the first U.S. combat troops. He was a member of the Black Panther Party, and more recently, he ran for city council as a Green Party member. His house is on the side of Algiers Point that is predominantly Black. Across the street (his side of the street is filled with modest working-class homes) is a new development–a gated community with several big houses in various states of construction–which he told us divides the side he lives on with the other side of the point that is predominantly Black.

Malik told us that the average income of a white family is about $48,000 (a low figure in itself), and the average income of a Black is just under half of that. We went into Malik’s house and talked some more.

“Before the storm, we had two-and-half days to evacuate 120,000 people,” said Malik. “When they gave the evacuation order, they knew there were over 100,000 people that had no way of getting out of the city. So the city just abandoned them. They could have provided public service buses. They could have made two trips and got everybody out of there. Everybody could have gotten out.

Algiers residents get a much needed delivery of food and water. (Original caption.)

“They told you when you went to the Superdome to bring food for five days. But this happened at the end of the month, and at the end of the month, poor people don’t have any food. How did they expect people to bring food when they knew they didn’t have any? So, they created the atmosphere of looting, because everybody said, ‘Damn, I’m not going to get caught like this, I’m going to find something.’

“First, they went and stole the food, then after that, they started taking anything that they could barter with. If I can steal some TVs, I’ll steal some TVs, because I need to get my family out of here. And if I’ve got to give you some TVs, some rings, some watches or whatever, I’m going to barter to get out of here. If I’ve got to puncture a whole in your gas tank to get gas so I can get out of here, that’s what I’m going to do.

“And that’s what it was. More people were shot by shooting in the air trying to get attention, than were shot by looters, and most of the looters were shot and killed by vigilantes. I had a confrontation, first, around the corner and, second, in front of my door with a group of white vigilantes. The police came and didn’t tell them nothing. In fact, they were able to walk out with their weapons.

“I mean, that’s just the way it was, you know. Again, the hard part about it was that we had a group of doctors coming in, but because the doctors were Black, they were turned around. In this area, maybe between three and 12 people were killed by vigilantes. It’s sad because it’s some of the people I knew, and I never would have thought they would have done this kind of thing. And I said, ‘What are you all trying to do? Are you trying to start a race riot?’

“A few of us came out here and tried to prevent it from turning into a race riot. And when they saw that whites were coming in to help us, they saw that it wasn’t a Black and white thing.”

[Mother Sheehan’s attorney] Buddy Spell, a radical lawyer and activist in the Louisiana Activist Network, who lives in Covington across Lake Ponchartrain, stopped by with Andy Stern after failing to procure a boat to go into East New Orleans to check on a rumor that 1,500 people trapped in a local high school had drowned.

He gave Malik his card and said that he was ready to defend anyone who had been framed. Malik said there were already a “bunch of them.” He said that a young guy was accused of shooting at a Blackhawk helicopter with a .22, and may be facing treason charges.

I wonder how many loaves of bread you could get for a wide-screen plasma TV?

This article was posted by Steve on Tuesday, September 20th, 2005. Comments are currently closed.

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