Saturday, November 12, 2005

Posse Comitatus Conundrum

Soldiers Patrol the streets of New Orleans at all times of the day, in all areas of the city.

They are welcomed by and friendly with people who live here, the relief workers who have come to volunteer and the previously unemployed from all parts of the country who've come here for jobs, which are plentiful.

If the New Orleans Police weren't brutalizing people and making complelty unfounded arrests... We'd all be screaming about the Posse Comitatus Law... but under the circumstances..

For example.. to relate just a few of the many stories I've heard since being here.

On the day that residents were "welcomed Back" to their city some were arrested for being on their own porch after curfew (their homes had not been demolded yet and staying inside was not safe). One man was arrested for "stealing" his own car. volunteer, non governmental, relief workers have recently been arrested for disorderly conduct & drunk in public when they were simply walking to where they were staying after attending organizational meetings where drinking was not involved.(in a city that allows people to walk around drinking alcohol openly) Any black man walking with a white woman should try to pretend they are not together.. for his own safty. Arrests have be brutal, some times accompanied by threats that in most cases would be considered terrorism. (we're gonna kill you, make it look like a suicide and throw your body in the river).

The commonly consensed reason for these unlawful arrests is that the police force needs to keep the number of arrests at about the same level as before the hurricane or they will be forced to lay off some cops. Problem is, thare are so few people in town that to do this they will need to arrest practically everyone at least once.

The ATF and ICE (which people seem to think are "Homeland Security") have also been harassing those who are here to rebuild the city. WHY ARE THEY HERE AT ALL?

Crime is exceptionally low. The city is full of people living in their vehicles, in tents in parks or in their yards.. The mold makes a great deal of the housing unlivable until cleaned. The rhetoric of welcoming people back but not offering any way for them to live while they seek jobs and clean ther homes is making tempers fly, toward anything governmental, and is bringing a level of solidarity among the people that I have not seen before.

Which brings me back to the Posse Comitatus. It's quite disturbing to me that I myself, having railed against violations of this law at most of the major protests of last year, find myself smiling and chating with the national guard. I'm sitting in a French Quarter bar as I write this and just watched 2 fully armed guardsmen walk by the window. They are needed to protect us from the cops. No one notices them as the walk down the street. If they were N.O.P.D. people would have crossed to the other side of the street to avoid them. NO P.D. :)

Could this be planned? To accustom people to military occupation on American Soil?

Gaurdsmen routinely break rules in order to help the various activists volunteer relief workers in the city. The same groups that are being constanly harassed by the cops and city officials. It seems to be commonly agreed that to get any support to the residents trying to return that rules must be ignored. During Manditory evacuation of Rita (i think) I've heard from passengers of a "hippie bus" that was fueled for free by the miltary guard who wrote on the paper work involved to charge FEMA. Is this a higher level of good cop bad cop? Or are miltary members beginning to see that our bureaucracies are killing us?

Last night there was a house fire in the 8th ward. A friend lived a couple doors down and filmed the entire event, getting spectacular shots of interior explosions, huge flames, and Hero firemen scaling a roof with flames shooting up 20 feet or more above their heads. When the news crews showed up (after the fire was out). I suggested to her that they may want to buy her footage. She showed one of them what she got and while a few of us watched intently he simply packed his equipment and left without shooting a single frame or saying a word. We called a couple of stations and talked to 2 other late comers and the response was "we'll use what we got, we don't buy footage, escpecially for a routine house fire".

I stopped shooting after seeing her footage as well and completly lost interest in being there until the Red Cross showed up. I had not yet seen Red Cross workers anywhere in the city. They came in after the fire was completely out and the onlookers had disbursed. They had 3 large trucks and a couple cars, must have been 20 - 30 Red Crossers hanging around handing water to the neighbors and making sure they weren't too freaked out. WHY WERE THEY THERE AT ALL? It was "just a routine house fire".

I hate to write. I would have much preferred to Show You. But I still can't edit. I'm working on it.

Related Links ::: Posse Comitatus: A principle in need of renewal, The Posse Comitatus Act, New Orleans IndyMedia, AUDIO: aid worker jailed and battered, Malik Rahim speaks on his experience following Katrina and the formation of Common Ground, Common Ground Collective

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