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Katrina’s Hidden Race War
A shocking report in The Nation magazine exposes how white vigilante groups patrolled the streets of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, shooting at least eleven African American men. |
While most of New Orleans was deluged in the wake of Katrina, word spread that Algiers Point was dry. The National Guard designated the Algiers Point ferry landing an official evacuation site, where flood victims were to be loaded onto busses headed for safety in Texas. Facing an influx of refugees, a group of heavily armed white residents sought to seal the area and to rid the neighborhood of “those who didn’t belong.” As the government collapsed, the city fractured along racial lines. Algiers Point is largely white, while the rest of Algiers is predominantly black. Desperate people began heading toward the west bank, some walking over bridges, others traveling by boat.
While the media portrayed African Americans as looters and thugs, it is now clear that the most serious crimes were committed by gun-toting white males. Militia member Vinnie Rervel says he lost his Ford van in a carjacking the day after Katrina made landfall, when an African -American man attacked him with a hammer. Vowing to prevent further robberies, Pervel and his neighbors began amassing an arsenal. “For a day and a half we were running around getting guns,” he says. “We got about forty.”
Nathan Roper, another vigilante, says he was unhappy that outsiders were disturbing his corner of New Orleans and that he was annoyed by the National Guard’s decision to use the Algiers Point ferry landing as an evacuation zone. “I’m telling you, it was forty, fifty people at a time getting off these boats,” says Roper. The militia, according to Roper, was armed with handguns, rifles and shotguns. “There was a few people who got shot around here,” said Roper. “I know of at least three people who got shot. I know one was dead ’cause he was on the side of the road.”
While white vigilantes killed an estimated total of eleven African American victims, local police have never conducted investigations. So far, the crimes have gone unpunished.
Neither has there been any investigation on the matter of the charred remains found in a burned out car a week after Katrina hit. Inside the scorched sedan, scattered across the back seat, were ashes, charred bone and clumps of burned flesh. Eventually, the remains were taken to a temporary morgue in the tiny St. Gabriel.
Relatives of the deceased (later identified as Henry Glover) claim the police allowed him to die and burned the car and his remains; the New Orleans Parish coroner has ruled the death “unclassified.”
According to witnesses, Glover was walking in the Algiers section of New Orleans when he was shot. When the two men tried to seek medical help for Glover, they were taken into police custody instead, where they were repeatedly beaten and berated.
While Glover bled to death in the back seat of the car, the officers did nothing to try to save him. When the officers finally decided to free the men who had tried to save Glover, they held on to the car. One witness recalls an officer saying, “The car is in police custody.”
Three days after Hurricane Katrina crashed into New Orleans, Donnell Herrington, who is African American, was shot with a shotgun. “I just hit the ground. I didn’t even know what happened,” recalls Herrington.
When two white men drove by, Herrington begged them for help. “I said, Help me, help me—I’m shot,” he recalls. According to Herrington, the response was hostile. One of the men told Herrington, “Get away from this truck, nigger. We’re not gonna help you. We’re liable to kill you ourselves.” After collapsing on his neighbors’ front porch, Herrington was finally taken to the hospital. Returning to New Orleans months later, Herrington learned there had been no police report documenting the attack.
Democracy Now! footage shows that dead bodies were left, sometimes for weeks, to rot in full view of Homeland Security, State troopers, Army personnel, private security guards, and police who “secured” the streets of New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina.
One reporter notes, “I was startled to meet so many people with so much detailed information about potentially serious offenses, none of whom had ever been interviewed by police investigators.”
Democracy Now! December 19, 2008
Title: “Katrina’s Hidden Race War: In Aftermath of Storm, White Vigilante Groups Shot 11 African Americans in New Orleans”