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Quote: Suburban police blocked evacuees, witnesses say
Gardiner Harris New York Times Sept. 10, 2005 12:00 AM
Police agencies to the south of New Orleans were so fearful of the crowds attempting to leave the city after Hurricane Katrina that they sealed a crucial bridge over the Mississippi River and turned back hundreds of desperate evacuees, according to two paramedics who were in the crowd.
The paramedics and two other witnesses said officers sometimes shot guns over the heads of fleeing people, who, instead of complying immediately with orders to leave the bridge, pleaded to be let through, according to the paramedics and two other witnesses. The witnesses said that they had been told by New Orleans police to cross this same bridge because buses were waiting for them there.
Instead, a suburban police officer angrily ordered about 200 people to abandon an encampment between the highways near the bridge. The officer then confiscated their food and water, the four witnesses said. The incidents took place in the first days after the storm last week, they said.
The police kept saying, 'We don't want another Superdome,' and 'This isn't New Orleans,' " said Larry Bradshaw, a San Francisco paramedic who was among those fleeing.
Arthur Lawson, chief of the Gretna, La., Police Department, confirmed that his officers, along with those from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office and the Crescent City Connection Police, sealed the bridge.
"There was no place for them to come on our side," Lawson said.
He said that he had been asked by reporters about officers threatening evacuees with guns or shooting over their heads, but he said that he had not yet asked his officers about that.
"As soon as things calm down, we will do an inquiry," he said.
The lawlessness that erupted in New Orleans soon after the hurricane terrified officials throughout Louisiana, and a week later, law enforcement officers rarely entered the city without weaponry.
Bradshaw and his partner, Lorrie Beth Slonsky, wrote an account about their experiences that has been widely e-mailed and was first printed in the Socialist Worker.
Cathey Golden, a 51-year-old from Boston, and her 13-year-old son, Ramon Golden, on Friday confirmed the account.
Nearly 200 guests at the Hotel Monteleone gathered to make their way to the Convention Center together, the four said. But on the way, they heard that the Convention Center had become a dangerous pit from which no one was being evacuated. So they stopped in front of a police command post near Harrah's casino on Canal Street.
A New Orleans police commander whom none of the four could identify told the crowd that they could not stay there and later told them that buses were being brought to the Crescent City Connection, a nearby bridge to Jefferson Parish, to carry them to safety.
The crowd cheered and began to move. Suspicious, Bradshaw said that he asked the commander if he was sure that buses would be there for them. "We'd had so much misinformation by that point," Bradshaw said.
"He looked all of us in the eye and said, 'I swear to you, there are buses waiting across the bridge,' " Bradshaw said.
But on the bridge there were four police cruisers parked across some lanes. Between six and eight officers stood with shotguns in their hands, the witnesses said. As the crowd approached, the officers shot over the heads of the crowd, most of whom retreated immediately, Bradshaw, Slonsky and Golden and her son said.
Cops steal water, shoot at civilians and attempt coercing women into public nudity. No wonder they're trying to take all the guns.
-------------------- It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for what you are not. -Andre Gide
"Generosity is nothing else than a craze to possess. All which I abandon, all which I give, I enjoy in a higher manner through the fact that I give it away. To give is to enjoy possessively the object which one gives."
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