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The Nation: Katrina’s Hidden Race War

By pams
Monday, December 22, 2008 18:00 EDT
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You have to read this devastating piece by A.C. Thompson in The Nation about a rag-tag band of white vigilantes on a race-based rampage in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, formed to protect one of the neighborhoods not flooded when the levees broke. It sounds like a nightmare out of another era, but as we found out during this election cycle, the Base of the GOP is clearly capable of this sort of thing.

Facing an influx of refugees, the residents of Algiers Point could have pulled together food, water and medical supplies for the flood victims. Instead, a group of white residents, convinced that crime would arrive with the human exodus, sought to seal off the area, blocking the roads in and out of the neighborhood by dragging lumber and downed trees into the streets. They stockpiled handguns, assault rifles, shotguns and at least one Uzi and began patrolling the streets in pickup trucks and SUVs. The newly formed militia, a loose band of about fifteen to thirty residents, most of them men, all of them white, was looking for thieves, outlaws or, as one member put it, anyone who simply “didn’t belong.”

…Fellow militia member Wayne Janak, 60, a carpenter and contractor, is more forthcoming with me. “Three people got shot in just one day!” he tells me, laughing. We’re sitting in his home, a boxy beige-and-pink structure on a corner about five blocks from Daigle’s Grocery. “Three of them got hit right here in this intersection with a riot gun,” he says, motioning toward the streets outside his home. Janak tells me he assumed the shooting victims, who were African-American, were looters because they were carrying sneakers and baseball caps with them. He guessed that the property had been stolen from a nearby shopping mall. According to Janak, a neighbor “unloaded a riot gun”–a shotgun–”on them. We chased them down.”

He’s equally blunt in Welcome to New Orleans, an hourlong documentary produced by the Danish video team, who captured Janak, beer in hand, gloating about hunting humans. Surrounded by a crowd of sunburned white Algiers Point locals at a barbeque held not long after the hurricane, he smiles and tells the camera, “It was great! It was like pheasant season in South Dakota. If it moved, you shot it.” A native of Chicago, Janak also boasts of becoming a true Southerner, saying, “I am no longer a Yankee. I earned my wings.” A white woman standing next to him adds, “He understands the N-word now.” In this neighborhood, she continues, “we take care of our own.”

It continues below the fold.

… Some of the gunmen prowling Algiers Point were out to wage a race war, says one woman whose uncle and two cousins joined the cause. A former New Orleanian, this source spoke to me anonymously because she fears her relatives could be prosecuted for their crimes. “My uncle was very excited that it was a free-for-all–white against black–that he could participate in,” says the woman. “For him, the opportunity to hunt black people was a joy.”

They didn’t want any of the ‘ghetto niggers’ coming over” from the east side of the river, she says, adding that her relatives viewed African-Americans who wandered into Algiers Point as “fair game.” One of her cousins, a young man in his 20s, sent an e-mail to her and several other family members describing his adventures with the militia. He had attached a photo in which he posed next to an African-American man who’d been fatally shot. The tone of the e-mail, she says, was “gleeful”–her cousin was happy that “they were shooting niggers.”

Color of Change has launched a campaign to ask Gov. Bobby Jindal to take action.

In the weeks following Hurricane Katrina, White vigilantes hunted down Black men who entered Algiers Point and even tried to expel their Black neighbors. Louisiana’s broken law enforcement agencies have refused to investigate these crimes.

Tell Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, and the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the racist shootings, and to demand accountability from Louisiana’s dysfunctional criminal justice system.

 
 
 
 
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