I am still trying to understand what I am "seeing" so bear with me...
I am not a trained as sociologist. I am not skilled in politics. I am not even college educated. So I do not know how to classify what I am perceiving. Yet I am aware and astute enough to know that something is occurring here that feels as if it is social/political/religious in nature and that it seems to be an "experiment" or precedent setting in nature. Louisiana is the lab, New Orleans is the petri-dish, and the inhabitants (mostly low-income Black Americans) are the unwitting test subjects. (I first mentioned this in the Crime and Punishment blog posting). I have been concerned about this situation since I posted The National Guard is here to help in April of 2007 and in March of 2007 Moral Ethical and Spiritual Quandaries .
Here are the 2 things that are concerning me the most: 1. The keeping of the majority of public housing closed, (which is state and federal), and 2. the privatization of the police force and the use of the National Guard and Military police to patrol the majority Black American neighborhoods.
Here is what is bothering me about what I see as the "privatization" of the police force.
In the upscale neighborhoods "private police" patrol the neighborhoods and I have seen them pull people over for traffic infractions. I have witnessed this but have not investigated the scope of their power compared to the police force. New Orleans police officers guard the Whole Foods Market, they sit by the door or walk around the parking lot. Events at Tulane University are guarded by security. Private security patrols the Audubon Park where people walk and jog. There are security guards (but now New Orleans police officers) at the shopping center with the Stein-Mart and Winne-Dixie (the 9th Ward has no open supermarket you have to cross over to Gentilly Boulevard, it is difficult to get to, if you have no car).
Here are few of my concerns:
1.The local and state police forces were instituted to "serve and protect" the public. Private agencies do not have the same agenda's as community/state police forces - they have an agenda of making a "profit". Private police agencies are "for-profit" businesses. What are the standards for being a private police officer? Why are those men able to work for private police agencies but not for the city?
2. The "privatization" of the police force. When did We the People decide that this would be okay with us? When was the debate? Who discussed the social implications? (How is the privatization (contracting) of the police force in New Orleans in regards to security related to the privatization (contracting) of security in Iraq i.e.: BlackWater, etc, and the privatization of support for the armed forces? I have read that BlackWater was here in a security capacity in the early days after the disaster. What does this mean in regards to the 'public' to We the People?)
3. In New Orleans, I have witnessed that the "haves" (read - majority White Americans) have "private" police forces patrolling their neighborhoods, with signs on their lawns to let the would be "criminals" know it. If there are not enough police officers to patrol the city streets and "private security" is needed, then I need to ask "why are uniformed police officers guarding the Whole Foods market?"
4. The "have-not's" (read - majority Black Americans) continue, as of this posting, to have the National Guard and the Military Police patrolling their neighborhoods. For some unknown reason, the police force in the 9th Ward continues to work out of cramped trailers and need to use outdoor portable toilets, whilst no work is being done on their building.
5. Something bothers me fundamentally, relentlessly, which I cannot name - when I continue see the National Guard and the Military Police in the low income Black American neighborhoods - but not in the wealthy upscale neighborhoods.
6. Whilst thankful for the work of the National Guard and the Military Police - something feels absolutely WRONG when I see them arresting people (read - majority Black Americans), working with the police officers (as support), and patrolling the neighborhoods (Black American).
7. I do not remember seeing a heavy a military presence in Chalmette when I was spending a lot of time there in February and March of 2007 (read majority White Americans). (I need to research this and get back to you - it seems to me that in Chalmette and Violet, they seemed to have enough funding for their police force). There is a terrible saying I have heard since coming here that will help elucidate the prejudice towards both the lower income Black Louisianians and the lower income White Louisianans. It goes something like this, "the upscale, gentille folk from the wealthy areas do not want either 'Bubba" or 'Rashid" in their schools or neighborhoods.
8. The New Orleans police force is understaffed, many officers I have heard are still living in FEMA trailers and to say that they are overworked is an understatement. Why haven't these first responders been given the highest and first priority along with Fire personnel? Where are the funds to rebuild the police stations and fire stations? (Did you realize dear reader that police officers and fire men/women continue to live and work out of FEMA trailers - that in the Lower 9th Ward the police station is still closed?)
9. How can the funds for "private" police forces, trucks, training and pay, be available for the "private protection" of the affluent and middle class neighborhoods but the same funding is not available to the local police force?
10. How many of the National Guard who have been rotated into the New Orleans area have been in Iraq and Afghanistan. How many of these men and women have participated in combat? How many have been treated for PTSD? How much leave and rest time have they received since returning from active duty?
11. If our armed forces were not being utilized to invade and occupy Middle Eastern countries, then each state of the union, including Louisiana, would have the National Guard troops they needed in place to respond to emergencies, the equipment needed (much of which is now in Iraq) and the Guard would be composed of locals. There would be plenty of men and women available to fill the ranks of the police forces, the fire force, and as doctors and nurses.
12. Who are the Security Guards guarding the FEMA trailer Parks? Who employs them? Why do they need to take so much security information when you visit someone living in a FEMA trailer park? Why did I feel as if I was a character in a an espionage film about an occupied country, as I was being "processed" to visit someone living in a FEMA trailer camp?
I think that We the People ought to wake up to what is occurring in New Orleans and the long term social and political implications, which will impact the country as a whole, before it is too late.
Hurricane Katrina: Police State Occupation of New Orleans Update: July 30, 2007
"Sending Blackwater into New Orleans is the twenty-first century's sad answer to that quaint twentieth-century phrase "send in the marines." It is the public confession that too much of our infrastructure has been "privatized," by which we mean that services formerly provided by government employees accountable to the American people can now be purchased, often at much higher prices, from the private sector, opening up much larger opportunities for war (and now disaster) profiteering. This is not to say that there aren't talented, strong, idealistic young men working for companies like Blackwater. But rather the privatization of these areas of endeavor, in light of the Iraq experience, is part cynical exercise in looting of the public treasuries, and part liberating the government from the burdensome accountability..." Kathryn Cramer
Update: July 30, 2007