Saturday, December 22, 2007

RIP: New Orleans, 1718 - 2007

Fury in New Orleans as housing demolition OKd

NEW ORLEANS -- After protesters skirmished with police inside and outside New Orleans City Hall on Thursday, the City Council voted unanimously to approve a federal plan to demolish a vast swath of public housing.

The fate of the 4,500 public housing units has become a flash point as this city struggles to piece itself back together after Hurricane Katrina damaged more than 134,000 homes, many of them in poor, mostly black neighborhoods.

Tents line the Interstate 10 underpass and a homeless camp has settled outside City Hall.

Even before New Orleans' seven City Council members took their seats for the public meeting, protesters were booing and pumping their fists.

"Why y'all standing behind the curtains?" a woman called out to council members who waited at the back of the council chambers for protesters to calm down. "This ain't no stage show! Get out from behind those curtains and tell us why you want to demolish our homes."

Oh, so now the press notices. Greg Palast has been on top of this story for a while now.

[Thurs August 30] "They wanted them poor niggers out of there and they ain't had no intention to allow it to be reopenedMalik Rahim of Common Ground Relief to no poor niggers, you know? And that's just the bottom line."

It wasn't a pretty statement. But I wasn't looking for pretty. I'd taken my investigative team to New Orleans to meet with Malik Rahim. Pretty isn't Malik's concern.

We needed an answer to a weird, puzzling and horrific discovery. Among the miles and miles of devastated houses, rubble still there today in New Orleans, we found dry, beautiful homes. But their residents were told by guys dressed like Ninjas wearing "Blackwater" badges: "Try to go into your home and we'll arrest you."

These aren't just any homes. They are the public housing projects of the city; the Lafitte Houses and others. But unlike the cinder block monsters in the Bronx, these public units are beautiful townhouses, with wrought-iron porches and gardens right next to the tony French Quarter.

If this is the first you've heard of the death of New Orleans, go to Greg Palast's website,, and do a search on "New Orleans". You'll find it quite enlightening. Or else pick up a copy of his book, Armed Madhouse, where you'll have a chance to get current on these types of things (at least current as of 2006). I'm sorry if that sounds snide, but I just watched the city of New Orleans, who is like an old friend, die while the entire nation stood back and did nothing. The city could have recovered right after the storm, but over two years later, the city has been gutted of its core identity. Oh, you'll still be able to go there and get a hurricane or a hand grenade and toss beads to young tarts... but the city's residents were always the city's soul, and that soul has shuffled loose the mortal coil. Go to Mardi Gras if you will, but you'll be dancing on the corpse of a great city which once was. New Orleans is quickly going the way of St. Louis in a matter of years, whereas St. Louis took generations to get to the point it's reached. Many people told me they were tired of hearing about New Orleans. Well, fear not; you'll not hear about it again... ever. The screaming in the video attached to the L.A. Times article was its death cry: residents being hosed down with pepper spray while protesting the demolition of their homes. It's over.

Fare thee well, old friend. I'll not see the likes of you again, I fear.

UPDATE: Here's a few words from someone who was there:


New Orleans Ladder said...

Hey thanks for keeping the light on in New Orleans! I posted you onto today's NO News Ladder. Greg Palast rocks Big Dogs!
Thanks again,
Bruce / editor

New Orleans Ladder said...

Hey! Come down for Mardi Gras this year or catch my favorite parade as it rolls early in January.
Thanks for checking out the Ladder. Nothing like a gorilla in a drummer's suit to get the point across about chocolate, eh?