Saturday, July 30, 2011

Banner Drop Against The Judicial System & Police

received via email:

"A banner was hung and fliers were tossed today near Canal and Rampart Streets in relation to the ongoing Danziger 7 trial. The banner read:
The fliers were tossed all up and down Canal Street. Pedestrians were picking them up, and some nodded to us in agreement before we left. The flier ends with a simple call, similar to the one made during the Oscar Grant trial in California:

This action was taken to counteract the lame, uncritical leftist cheer-leading going on during the Danziger 7 trial. Leftists relentlessly critique the justice system and point out how the system is rigged against the poor and people of color, yet they are all too willing to embrace that system the few times it decides to go after police officers who are caught red-handed in moments of excessive force.

The charade going on in the Danziger 7 trial is meant to reassure the public that the justice system is impartial and metes out punishment evenly for anyone who commits a crime. Everyone knows this is bullshit, yet leftists publicize this example of "the justice system working" and help to perpetuate the myths it spreads about equal justice under the law.

"Before the law, beggars and kings are equally forbidden from stealing bread or sleeping under a bridge." -Elena Kagan

Fuck judges, fuck courts, and fuck leftists who uncritically embrace them the moment they take a minute of their time away from crushing the souls of, stealing the lives of, and robbing the fuck out of the poor. That is like cheering for someone who has just beaten your face bloody, because they decided to hit someone else for a change. It is absolutely idiotic.

The courts will never be on the side of the poor because the police and the court system work for the same master: the rich. Anything they do only serves the interests of keeping the rich in power, including when they put on show-trials to help maintain their facade of legitimacy in the eyes of the increasingly cynical and critical public. And leftists are right there to give them a hand with it (Why do you think the mainstream media are so willing to put the trial on their front page?). We refuse that role. We know jailing the Danziger 7 killers will do nothing to change the system that is surely creating new officers just like them at this very minute. The only way justice can be served, and people of color and poor people can be safe, is to get rid of the police altogether!
-some anarchists"

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Banner Drop Against Ecological Devastation

Some folks in New Orleans dropped some massive banners off a parking garage next to the interstate today in the CBD. The bottom banner reads, "This Land is Our Land: Bidder 70", referring to the recent sentencing of Tim DeChristopher, an environmental activist who stopped drilling in Utah by out-bidding oil companies. His inspiring call to action that he read at sentencing can be read here.  Check out the pics:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Non-Violent Civil Disobedience Against BP & The Feds: August 4th

ALEC, is coming to town the week of August 3rd to the 6th...  ALEC works with oil companies, like BP, to destroy environmental protections and reduce the royalties oil companies pay for the oil they extract from our land! On August 4th, people are organizing a civil disobedience action at the BP Unified Command Center in New Orleans at 1250 Poydras St., in Poydras Plaza, from 5pm-8pm. We'll let the organizers explain:

It is time.

Over the 15 months since the explosion and consequential sinking of the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, we - the people of the Gulf, rightly claim that we have exhausted all other avenues with concern to finding justice for our communities affected.

One year ago from August 4, Jane Lubchenco and President Barack Obama declared erroneously that 75% of the oil was gone from the GOM. At that time the media packed up and left, taking with it the eye of the American public.
Since that time we have been to commission meetings, met with officials - including the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Farce, gone through an unjust claims process, defended ourselves from outlandish accusations, paid for a distributed self testing of water, air and wildlife, battled illnesses associated with the catastrophe, posted video proof of such, walked through oil and tarball fields still coming onto our shores, lost large portions of our marshes and wildlife, lived through financial devastation, been denied legislation to protect us, fought for a citizen's oversight committee, been on media outlets around the world, begged for funds for further testing and to keep our already fragile ecosystem from damage.. and yet, still can find no voice or justice for our people.
We have too long been the energy sacrifice for the nation And to the criminal acts of BP, who is NOT "making it right".
Feeling that we have exhausted all other options on August 4 we join together in a show of solidarity.

More info to follow...

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The "Paw Paw Bandit" Bank Robber! A Hero For Our Times!

How Grandpa Got His Groove Back
A man the FBI is calling the Paw Paw Bandit has robbed 4 banks in Jefferson Parish so far, and we are cheering him on! Unfortunately, the FBI stopped telling the media how much bank robbers get during their robberies, because they thought it was encouraging others to rob banks, but we hope he got a lot! It was probably also because the FBI, and the banks they work for, were constantly embarrassed by average Americans who knew who the real criminals were and were able to go out and get some of their money back!

For hundreds of years, OUR wealth, first in the form of communally held lands, then in taxes on our products and later in the form of our very labor itself, has been stolen from us and concentrated in the hands of a wealthy elite. Banks are part of that wealthy elite, and robbing them is only getting back a fraction of what's been stolen over generations from us all.

Stop and think for a moment the terrorism this system can put people through so that they'd risk 25 years in prison while in their 60s just to get what they need to survive. How backed into a corner they can make us, that we'd risk being stuck in a prison cell for the few remaining years of the only life we get on this planet, just to have the money to survive with dignity. How truly sickening this damn system has become! How can we allow such a system that subjects our elders to such barbarity and makes them go to such extreme lengths to go on for even one day longer? We are on the side of every bank robber, and we hope y'all are, too.
So, to Paw Paw, we say: Geaux, Paw Paw, Geaux!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Why Anarchists Should Protest the ALEC Conference in New Orleans, August 5th

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is coming to town! They are a bunch of nasty fuckers who bring corporations together with state legislators so corporate lawyers can hand pre-written bills to the politicians, who then try to get the bills passed in their state legislatures.

ALEC has been making the news a lot recently, with NPR pieces[pt.1, pt.2] about how, in meetings with private prison corporations, they wrote the infamous SB1070, the anti-immigrant law that anarchists and others have been fighting against in Arizona.

Leaked documents from inside ALEC prompted an interview segment on Democracy Now! The documents show that ALEC, in partnership with it's corporate members, actually wrote many pro-corporate laws that have since gone into effect, including free trade agreements that were a main focus of the anti-globalization movement many anarchists participated in after the WTO protests in Seattle in 1999.

And on the Huffington Post, an article explains how ALEC is carrying forward the ideological program of deregulation and privatization pushed by Milton Friedman. This simplistic, fundamentalist capitalist ideology has had many negative local effects, as was mentioned in a recent article on this blog.

Now, anarchists have no illusions about the fact that big business owns and runs the government, but at least corporate power usually fears public anger that arises from the blatant merger of State and corporate power enough to put on a political puppet show for us! Mostly, the way elites legitimize the unequal and unjust system that they preside over to the rest of us is to make sure that it at least has the appearance of people, through elected politicians, getting to decide democratically what happens in our country. ALEC doesn't bother with that populist song and dance, they facilitate the outright penning of legislation by corporations themselves becoming law. So we end up with things like Immigration Policy, brought to you by Corrections Corporation of America! etc...

While ALEC's dealings aren't a meaningful divergence from the normal machinations of power, it is easier for people to see that the system's a sham, and easier for them to finger the true culprits, when corporations are writing their own legislation. This is why the anti-ALEC organizing to confront those economic power structures is worth supporting.

Of course, there will surely be those in the protest calling for the political charade to be played out fully once again, for the kabuki theater to re-close the curtains that shields us from what's happening backstage, so we can once again be whisked away to fairyland, where democracy exists and people power is in charge, and we can return to our peaceful slumber, dreaming the American Dream.

But, there will be also be people protesting who know returning to the democratic facade is not going to solve any of our problems, and that confronting the corporations behind the curtain of our "democracy" is the first step to destroying their control of our lives and communities.

In that spirit, anarchists should come out to the locally-organized ALEC protests in New Orleans (August 5th, 2pm, 500 Poydras St.). Come out not to demand stricter adherence to lobbying laws, more transparency, or less corruption. Come out to demand an end to the power of corporations, and their use of State violence to increase their wealth, and thereby control over our economy, society, and lives. Come out to say that it doesn't matter whether that power is hidden behind the veil of democracy, or is blatantly transparent, as it is with ALEC, that either way it has to be dismantled. Anarchists should come with flags, in black, or with banners and signs to show our united stance, to show that we are not in favor of a return to the democratic political farce, but organizing for an end to capitalist control.

Not only should anarchists participate in the protest on August 5th, but we should organize other actions to confront the corporations who are members of ALEC during the conference, from August 1st-6th. ALEC's members include oil companies responsible for ruining the Gulf and Wetlands, big banks who own hundreds of foreclosed homes in our city while people sleep on the streets, and private prison companies directly profiting from tough on crime laws, the creation of a racist, militarized police state, and booming incarceration rates, which Louisiana leads the nation in. Let's get creative and use their conference to catalyze our own actions to take back our city from these profiteers of human suffering!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

George Carlin Lays It Out Fer Ya!

A little comedic interlude from all the violence of the rich. They may control the power, but they have to live their lives in fear of the poor, while we can laugh it up.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Local History: Algiers (Fischer Projects) Massacre and Resistance, 1980-81

The six demonstrators who occupied Mayor Ernest Morial's office for three days in June, 1981, march with fists raised as they leave New Orleans City Hall. From left are: Kalamu Ya Salaam, Macio Duncan, Cynthia Riley, Daniel Johnikin and Martin Lefstein. The sixth protester is out of view inside the doorway. The signs around their necks bear the names of the people killed in the Algiers 7 shootings.

After a white NOPD officer, Gregory Neupert, was killed  near the Fischer Housing Projects in November 1980, mobs of police officers went on a rampage in the black section of the Algiers neighborhood on the West Bank. Within days of the shooting, people were calling in about being harassed by the police, being thrown up against the wall, about young men being marched through the projects with their hands up like prisoners of war in massive roundups. Residents had stories of being handcuffed and beaten by police with a hardback city directory, of being suffocated by having plastic bags put over their heads, and of 2 young men who were taken out to the swamp and marched onto a wooden bridge off a levee, who had a shotgun put to their heads in a mock execution to try to get information about who killed Neupert. The weeks-long vicious NOPD assault culminated in the murders of four innocent people, and injuries to as many as fifty. 

The first person killed by the NOPD in its revenge attacks on the community was Raymond Ferdinand, a 38-year-old Fischer resident. Days later, James Billy, Reginald Miles, and Miles' girlfriend Sherry Singleton were all killed simultaneously in police raids on 2 separate residences, raids based on accusations made under duress from the 2 men mock-executed on the bridge. The police murdered Sherry Singleton while she was laying in the bathtub, naked. The police said the 3 murder victims had guns, and every cop there stuck to that story. Local civil rights attorney Mary Howell was able to go in and see the bloody clothing all over the place and the bullets lodged in the walls where Singleton and Miles were killed, as the police knew not securing the crime scene would make any case against them more difficult in court. Sherry Singleton also had a 4-year old son with her in the apartment who watched as the police murdered his Mom. 
James Billy, Reginald Miles and Sherry Singleton were all brutally murdered at the hands of NOPD officers.
Finally, one cop, Oris Buckner, the lone black NOPD officer who was present at one of the fatal raids, told the FBI that 'these people were murdered, that they didn't have guns.' Of course, people from the neighborhood knew what the truth was the whole time, and they organized to demand repercussions against the police for their reign of terror. They held protests, leafleted at Labor Day picnics, and formed the African American Police Brutality Committee. 

The day after the 3 murders, as activists from projects all over the city warned city officials of the possibility of a riot if something was not done to stop the killer cops, 250 Fischer residents courageously took to the streets to protest the police abuse and murder. The day of Sherry Singleton's funeral, over 100 people protested at police Headquarters and went inside, demanding to see the police chief. Black leaders threatened an economic boycott of the city if no action was taken. More protests continued, especially after no one was found worthy of indictment on murder charges by a state Grand Jury, with moderate middle class black leaders always trying to hem in the more militant organizers, as the anger in the city remained at a boiling point. Michael Williams of Community Action Now even padlocked the doors of PANO, the Patrolman's Association of New Orleans, while 200 cops were inside having a meeting! He was beaten up and arrested for the creative and courageous action. Over six months after the murders, with no punishments yet handed down from the city or the courts to the killer cops, in June of 1981 protesters occupied the Mayor's office for 3 days in protest.

Despite Oris Buckner's testimony, no officer was ever charged in the any of the 4 murders. However, Mary Howell and others brought a federal civil rights violation case against NOPD cops on behalf of 16 people. The first indictment was thrown out by the judge, but public pressure and grassroots protests forced the case to move forward. Sadly, only three of the 7 officers indicted were convicted. They were imprisoned for 5 years each and are now free. No cops have ever been charged with murder for the 4 innocent Algiers residents they killed in their twisted rampage of revenge and collective punishment. 

These events in Algiers led to the resignation of the Police Chief, and the creation of an office for investigating complaints against police and other city workers called the Office of Municipal Investigations. As we now know, looking at the more recent Glover, Danziger Bridge, Adolph Grimes III, Kim Groves, and Adolph Archie cases, among many others, those reforms did little to change the NOPD. Anarchists would argue it is impossible to reform the NOPD to be anything other than what it is designed to be: a force for control, compliance, punishment, and discipline of populations and individuals who find this society to be an unfair, unjust, or unsurvivable place, and dare to defy following the unsatisfying path set up for them in life, and especially to crush those who dare to organize and defy this social system collectively[1].

Mary Howell, when reflecting on this case after 30 years, says the same problems keep surfacing because they've never been adequately addressed. 
"I look at this like domestic violence, there are these repeated cycles of abuse," said Howell, who blames slippages in accountability and supervision. "There will be periods of lull, where everyone thinks things are all right now, but really it is just pushed beneath the surface. Then there is a terrible event and everyone thinks: 'Oh, how could this happen?'" 

This testimony, from someone with 30 years of experience dealing with the police, should reveal that reformist attempts at change will continue to fail, that they will keep us on a hamster wheel running as fast as we can to win reforms, but never really getting anywhere. The "slippages" Howell blames for recurring problems are just the system coming back into alignment with what it was set up, and is required, to do, in order to maintain our unequal, unjust, and authoritarian society. Like any good feminist would advise a repeated victim of domestic violence, the best thing to do is to leave the abusive partner behind! To end the cycle of abuse, we have to kick the NOPD out of our communities so they can't harm us anymore. Any demand or goal short of this is just setting us up to get beaten, abused, and eventually murdered, again and again, as the victims of police murder since these turbulent days in Algiers remind us.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"You Have to Have a Dream:" An Interview with Former Angola Prisoner and "Angolite" Editor Wilbert Rideau

via Press Street's Room 220:
By Nik De Dominic
I meet Wilbert Rideau at a hotel on Rampart Street, across from Armstrong Park. It is a sunny day, the weather is cool. I recognize him and his wife, Dr. Linda Labranche. They met while Rideau was still an inmate at Louisiana State Penitentiary—or “Angola”—where until 2005 he had been serving out a life sentence for nearly 44 years.
While inside Angola, Rideau became one of the most powerful men in the Louisiana Prison System on either side of the law. In 1975, 14 years after he was convicted of murder, he became editor of Angola’s prison magazine, The Angolite, and served in that capacity for 25 years with a single prescription from the warden: He could print anything he wanted, as long as it was true.
This was a revolutionary development—not only for prison journalism, but for what the public knows at all about the inner workings of prison life. Rideau and his associates wrote about violence, the prison economy, prison health and mental health care, death in prison—by execution and otherwise—and a slew of other topics never so closely or openly examined.
continue reading the full interview...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Milton Friedman's Neoliberal Legacy in New Orleans

For those who don't know, Milton Friedman was a professor at the University of Chicago and the most influential champion of unfettered "free market" capitalism for the past few decades. He and his economist cronies, later dubbed the "Chicago School," envisioned a world of extreme government deregulation of social services -- such as health care, public schooling and public housing -- in favor of a corporate bonanza of mass privatization.

Because most don't wish to see their lives and communities put to the service of increasing the wealth of a concentrated elite, however, the means by which the Chicago School put their grand ideas into being required some less-than-voluntary measures: they utilized, with the help of power-hungry leaders, a methodology known as the "shock doctrine" -- first tested in the mid 1970s in the formerly Socialist country of Chile after the rise of bloody dictator Augusto Pinochet. Thus, while the Chilean people were still processing the removal of their elected president Salvador Allende and the instituting of a military dictatorship virtually overnight, Friedman and his team worked feverishly to write a new economic program for Pinochet's Chile which included the privatizing of all state-run enterprises such as the mining, water, and electricity industries. The Friedman philosophy was that "only a crisis -- either actual or perceived -- produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions taken depend upon the ideas that are lying around. our primary function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable." In other words, while a nation or city is still reeling from the shock of a crisis -- be it a natural disaster or a U.S.-backed government coup d'etat -- Friedman and his disciples swiftly descend and institute severe economic slashes -- known as " economic shock therapy" -- that better suit multinational corporations.

 Alas, much of Friedman's vision, especially for those of us here in New Orleans (what is regarded as the primary domestic "laboratory" for the Friedmanites' experiment in sweeping privatization), has sadly come to pass.

In an op-ed for the The Wall Street Journal three weeks following Hurricane Katrina, Milton Friedman wrote: "Most New Orleans schools are in ruins, as are the homes of the children who attended them. The children are scattered all over the country. This is a tragedy. It is also an opportunity to radically reform the educational system."

In the wake of a hurricane leaving most New Orleans public schools inoperable, the way Friedman and his followers saw fit to "reform" the educational blight entailed firing thousands of teachers and giving vouchers to parents for their children to attend charter schools. Within these publicly funded and privately run institutions -- which are often run at a profit as well -- the curriculum is considerably influenced by those entities running it, and many black residents in the city have expressed concern that these markedly polarizing institutions are a setback to the gains of the Civil Rights movement that granted all children -- at least in theory -- the same standard of education. This conversion to charter schools was just one of the 32 policies drafted by the Heritage Foundation -- a conservative thinktank of Friedmanism -- on September 13th 2005 (just two weeks after the storm) during a meeting with Republican lawmakers to devise the future of our destroyed city. The list of policies came straight from the Chicago School shock therapy rubric and was entitled "Pro-Free-Market Ideas for Responding to Hurricane Katrina and High Gas Prices," which was announced publicly by President Bush later that week.  Major contracts were awarded to corporations like Halliburton to rebuild military bases along the Gulf Coast; to the mercenary police force Blackwater to provide security for FEMA employees; to Kenyon, a division of a large funeral conglomerate and Bush campaign backer, to collect the remains of those who'd been abandoned by their government; as well as to other private entities fresh from disaster profiteering in the war-torn nation of Iraq. Mere scraps of the tens of billions of dollars allocated for the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast went to the region's actual residents and much of it disappeared, presumably, into the bank accounts of rich businessmen; worse still, in November of 2005, Congress offset the expense of these massive contracts and corporate tax breaks by cutting $40 billion from the federal budget -- among these, Medicaid, student loans, and food stamps. The Heritage Foundation also appealed to Congress to repeal environmental regulations on the Coast to make way for more intensive oil drilling. In essence, while the desperate residents of the Gulf South struggled to salvage their lives, corporate vultures swooped in and siphoned all they could, in the process drastically remaking the city to suit their own interests at the expense of those affected by this disaster.

Here we are, six years later, and the majority of New Orleans' public schools sit forlornly in varying states of abandonment and disrepair; low-income public housing has been torn down on the orders of despicable developers like Joe Canizaro and Pres Kabacoff to make way for more lucrative rental properties (and further push black residents out); and Charity Hospital languishes in vacancy as LSU paves over the historic neighborhood of Lower Midcity to erect a private medical complex and housing for wealthy doctors.

The more we understand the ways in which our world is being insidiously colonized and consumed by those in power and the demands of a system that prioritizes money over human life, the more prepared we will be to combat this system that is exploiting us. Scientists have linked the intensity and frequency of natural disasters to widespread industrialization and the emission of greenhouse gases that raise the temperature of the seas. Though it is unpleasant and even despairing to consider, as the forces of global capitalism continue to wreak havoc upon our world with even fewer restrictions, we can thus expect more and more catastrophes to come our way. And if it is as Friedman proposed -- that only crises produce change, and what the world looks like after the smoke clears or the floodwaters recede depends upon the alternatives available -- then perhaps creating and sustaining anarchist infrastructure should be one of our greatest tasks. Instead of watching helplessly the perpetuation of another disaster apartheid, in which those with more can buy their survival from the private "disaster relief" companies while the rest grovel desperately, we can begin to build stronger communities and perhaps even create our own support networks for when such a day comes once again. After all, we can't rely on the government to do it for us. It may be an incredible stretch, but as we plummet further and further toward the privations and upheavals that signal the end of an empire, maybe the "politically impossible" aim of a world based upon mutual aid and freedom, rather than selfishness and ever-greater policing, can become "politically inevitable."

For a more detailed account of Milton Friedman's misdeeds, as well as a sobering study of the rise of disaster capitalism at home and abroad, check out The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein.

Monday, July 11, 2011

An alternate take on the St. Bernard housing battle

For the past few years there has been enormous resistance in St. Bernard Parish to the construction of new affordable housing complexes. This fits into a larger pattern of St. Bernard Parish's racially coded use of Parish law to prohibit rental properties of any kind, no matter their size or scale. A post-Katrina blanket construction ban on new apartment buildings and an ordinance forbidding more than one rental property in a 500-foot radius are other examples of efforts at the Parish level to keep St. Bernard as it was-- meaning, white.

It's hardly surprising, then, that the conflict over the new affordable housing complexes has been cast in racial terms: the (poor) white people of St. Bernard don't want (poor) black people moving into their parish. Racist graffiti and racist messages left on the developer's voicemail seem like clear evidence.

Planning map. Pic from
The dispute over this particular set of affordable-housing developments-- four big "mixed-income" apartment complexes, 288 units-- has dragged on for years. At every step, at every council meeting, the residents of St. Bernard Parish have unanimously, unequivocally stated that they do not want these apartment complexes built. The people of St. Bernard have fought this tirelessly since it was proposed... tirelessly, but unsuccessfully: the federal government has stepped in to ensure the Dallas developer who bought up this land post-Katrina can build the complexes.

Does this sound familiar? The people of a community resist something for years and years, exhausting every legal channel, and then it happens anyway. That's the story of the highway running through the middle of Treme, that's the story of the destruction of lower Mid-City, that's the story of countless Walmarts opening in neighborhoods where they were unwanted. Money is implacable. It doesn't matter what the people want: money always gets its way. Opponents of "progress" are demonized as necessary: Don't you WANT people to have medical care? Don't you WANT economic development and jobs? Don't you WANT groceries? Don't you WANT there to be affordable housing?

Let's take a look at "Provident Realty Advisors," the multi-million-dollar Dallas developer building these huge new complexes, complexes where formerly there were wetlands. When we visit their website,, we learn that their primary interest is "distressed/opportunistic real estate assets." So, when shit gets fucked up somewhere, these cats dip in and snatch up cheap land, as they did immediately post-Katrina in St. Bernard parish. Do you think they give a damn about poor people? Surely no-one can pretend they have any agenda besides making money.

Who owns the wetlands?  Pic from
There's someone else making money off these developments too. St. Bernard is mostly blue-collar, with a median household income of $36,000 a year, but as in plantation days there are a few extremely rich landowners. The land Provident is building on was bought in a complicated, strings-attached sales deal from a group called the Meraux Foundation, a consortium whose own bizarre & sinister history sheds light on the way things are done in South Louisiana.

The late Doc Meraux was St. Bernard's sheriff and tax collector. He became a massive landholder during the great depression by pressuring penniless & tax-defaulting residents into selling him their property at desperation prices. These days, the ill-gotten Meraux land is owned by a foundation trust run by a who's who of the parish's biggest power players, chief among them the current Sheriff, Jack Stephens. The Meraux Foundation has made millions doing business with Provident Realty. So, while the people of St. Bernard struggle for local control over land use, their own politicos and "community leaders" profit hugely from selling St. Bernard off to developers.

I would argue that this sale is not evidence Sheriff Stephens & the Meraux Foundation are more enlightened than those who oppose the projects.

St. Bernard, like many parts of the South, spent long decades of the twentieth century in the grasp of insane racist autocrats. Avaricious strongmen like Doc Meraux and Leander Perez were repeatedly elevated by the (white!) voters to Khan-like regional omnipotence, explicitly in exchange for a commitment to protect the parish's whites from a perceived racial threat. The immigrant ancestors of most of Chalmette and St. Bernard's oh-so-reviled racist whites weren't themselves considered white by turn-of-the-century America, but race as a concept, like most prejudices, has always existed in its own reality.

This self-sabotage by voters, letting a fear of some alien "other" prompt them to consolidate political power (& resources) into the hands of an elite, is not a phenomenon limited to St. Bernard Parish. Replace the black bogeyman with terrorists, communists, immigrants, or in the case of most leftists, Republicans, and you get the same results anywhere: people eager to cede their rights, via democracy or other means.

Progress. Pic from
One toxic aspect of this toxic legacy is that a few people end up legally owning almost everything. In St. Bernard that's certainly the case. Now, with the sale to Provident by Sheriff Stephens & co., a sacred & historic trust between the poor whites and the elected officials of St. Bernard has been ruptured. Is there any wonder the betrayal's caused outrage? Elected officials were given absolute authority, allowed to run everything & own everything, just on the strength of that one promise... but it turns out there's something much stronger than tradition, stronger than trust, and stronger than prejudice: greed for the almighty dollar.

I make NO excuses for the outright and pervasive bigotry expressed by many of the opponents of these new housing developments. The brutal & ongoing consequences of this institutionalized race-hatred should not be belittled, minimized, or "contextualized" into abstraction. But just because people are racist, does that mean they aren't our neighbors? Do working-class people who openly express prejudice lose the right to self-determination, while those who have the privilege and education to cloak their agendas roll on unopposed? Should rich out-of-town developers get to do whatever they want when an entire community opposes them?

Of course, "entire communities" were opposed to school integration, as well, and there are echoes of that in this case, especially with the role federal judges have played. But if we castigate the poor whites of St. Bernard for not making common cause with poor people of color, for being duped into viewing their class comrades as enemies, haven't some of us been guilty of a similar oversight? Has our legitimate revulsion towards racism led us to side with a cynical megadeveloper or the profiteering Sheriff Stephens? This complicated story is, in part, a story of poor locals resisting the will of a wealthy out-of-town developer partnered with the US Government... and if we ignore that aspect, we ourselves have been duped.

Ain't dere no more. Pic from

Police Kill Man Over Shirtlessness on Bourbon Street

Police shot and killed a man on Bourbon Street early on Sunday, July 10th, after he got into an altercation with a bouncer at the Bourbon Street Blues Company nightclub over not wearing a t-shirt, a small problem that should never have escalated to gunfire. Bouncers are notorious on Bourbon for their bad decisions, escalation of situations, and aggressive brutality, all backed up by the NOPD, who are always nearby, watching with approval, if not actively participating.

The guy who was killed had a gun, and allegedly flashed it at the bouncer, in what was surely a drunken display of bravado, as he was leaving the BBC after being kicked out for not wearing a T-shirt. The bouncer could have left it at that, but he chased the guy, and the NOPD got involved, creating an escalating situation that ended with a dead young man and bullets flying around on Bourbon Street, which isn't safe for anyone, and a tragedy for the man's family and friends.

The inability for police and bouncers to choose the de-escalation of a situation over maintaining their absolute control and ability to punish all law violators puts everyone in more danger than if they had let this drunk guy wander off and cool down. This is just another example of how the cops don't keep us safe, they actually put us all in more danger, and this time it lead to another sad ending of a young man's life. We live in a city where the war of Capital against people has undergone metamorphosis into a violence that shoots out in all directions. Until that war of the rich against all others has ended, a war now hundreds of years old, the insanely violent society it catalyzes outward in all directions will never end.
When 2 particles collide, quantum particles explode from that one point of impact in hundreds of diverging directions. The longer the time after impact, the more divergent the effects of the collision become, and the harder to trace back to their original source.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy International Flag Burning Day!

The husband of Helen Hill, Dr. Paul, used to play in an anarchist calypso band called The Troublemakers. True to their name, one July 4th they played a gig at Ernie K-Doe's Mother-in-Law Lounge, and half way through the set they took the crowd out to the abandoned lot next door and burned some flags to celebrate the holiday in true anarchist tradition. What better city to celebrate the spirit of internationalism in then in our city, made up of Native Americans, Africans, Haitians, Creoles, Cajuns, French, Spanish, English, German, Scottish, Italian, Irish, and Islenos people, among others? Internationalism makes total sense in our context!