The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

New Orleans:
Behind the Lies Told by the Officials and the News Media

Oct 10, 2005

The news media now admits that its reports describing wanton violence and lawlessness in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina were wrong. There was no widespread looting, as every single news channel and newspaper reported. No mobs broke into the WalMart and took all the guns and ammunition. No opposing gangs rampaged in the streets. People did not shoot at helicopters trying to rescue them. Wrong too were all the reports of homicides and rapes, including those of "babies" at the Louisiana Superdome. There were not 30 or 40 decomposing bodies inside a freezer in the Convention Center, including a girl whose throat was slashed. All told, the police say that there were four murders for that week–which is typical in a city that anticipated 200 murders for this year.

"I think 99% of it is bullshit," commented Sgt. 1st Class Jason Lachney of the Louisiana National Guard, who served inside the Superdome.

"I certainly saw fights," said Major Ed Bush of the Louisiana National Guard, who also worked in the Superdome that week, "but I saw worse fights at a Cubs game in Chicago. The people never turned into these animals." On the contrary, Major Bush said, "What I saw in the Superdome was a tremendous number of people helping people.... They have been cheated out of being thought of as these tough people who looked out for each other."One of the few officials with the Department of Social Services in the Superdome told of how rough teenagers helped save those who were collapsing from heat and exhaustion every few minutes. "Some of these guys look like thugs, with pants hanging down around their asses," he said, "But they worked their asses off, grabbing litters and running with people to the New Orleans Arena" next door, which housed the medical operation.

These officials also reported about how people worked to keep each other safe in the kind of common sense ways that ordinary people do when they come together.

Faced with the most horrifying conditions, the people trapped inside the Superdome and Convention Center behaved in an exemplary fashion. Top city officials, despite the regular reports from their own officials about what really was going on, spread vicious rumors against them.

Eddie Compass, then the city police chief, promulgated rumors in interviews in which he characterized himself and his officers as outgunned warriors taking on armed bands of thugs at every turn.

Later on, he was forced to admit that this never happened.

As for Mayor Ray Nagin, he also continuously embellished on the stories of the wanton violence and lawlessness. As late as September 6 in an interview by Oprah Winfrey he still described the scene inside the Superdome as "animalistic." "In that frickin’ Superdome for five days I was watching dead bodies, I was watching hooligans killing people, raping people," Nagin lied.

These lies were told to justify calling for tens of thousands of National Guard and regular military troops to bolster the police. The military was used to protect the mansions of the wealthy, as well as the business district and the French Quarter, which were all on high ground and had not been flooded.

City officials want the military to stop people from leaving the enormous shelters with their unspeakable conditions and moving into the grand mansions, hotels and office buildings. Officials wanted to stop them from getting into the big stores and restaurants that were stocked high with food and clothing, which could have been used to feed and clothe those who lost almost everything.

In other words, instead of opening those places up and bringing people into them, making their resources available to them, the city officials did the opposite, thus costing countless lives.

These lies and slanders against the working class and poor of New Orleans were told to uphold what is most sacred in this capitalist society–the private property of the wealthy.