Forcible evacuation of “Occupied New Orleans”

Survivors of Hurricane Katrina who refuse to follow the mandatory evacuation order have been handcuffed as soldiers and police force them to abandon their homes. Up to 10,000 “hold-outs” are still thought to be in New Orleans, and many are armed. (ITN, Sept. 9) The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette notes Sept. 9 that it feels like an “occupied” city:

In order to clean up the city and make it safe again, Mayor Ray Nagin has ordered the city’s remaining residents to leave.

Helping him are members of the National Guard, U.S. Army Airborne, U.S. Border Patrol, Coast Guard, police and sheriff’s deputies from as far away as New York City, and Federal Bureau of Investigation agents.

Their presence in Humvees, medical vans, cargo trucks, and helicopters — minus the residents and tourists — suggest Occupied New Orleans.

A makeshift jail has been established at the city bus station:

A taped cardboard sign on the front of the Greyhound bus station near Interstate 10 proclaims “We are taking New Orleans Back.”

An idling Amtrak locomotive generates most of the electricity. Welcome to the new Central Booking for criminal suspects in Orleans Parish.

The main jail was evacuated last week after being flooded with 5 feet of water, with inmates and guards dispersed. Now, law and order seemed to be returning to the city, eight days after Hurricane Katrina smashed the city’s infrastructure and set loose panic and looting in some neighborhoods. By yesterday, streets that had been patrolled last week by a skeleton crew of New Orleans police officers fairly bristled with armed people in uniform – the National Guard, state troopers from across the country, even agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Operations at the bus station are being run by the Louisiana State Department of Corrections, which stepped in at the prompting of State Attorney General Charles Foti Jr. – the former Orleans Parish criminal sheriff – to fill the apparent breach left by local leadership…

Since Sunday, a total of 171 arrestees – most booked for looting – have passed through here, said Lt. Col. Bobby Achord, an official from the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola who came down to New Orleans on Friday to set things up…

Out back, the numbered slots where buses parked have become holding cells, hemmed in by 12-foot-high chain-link fences topped with razor wire. Nearby, large red holding tanks that look like wading pools hold water to wash down the cells and for staffers to bathe in portable showers that Wal-Mart donated. Each cell has a doorless Porta Potti. “They have no expectation of privacy,” Achord said.

But they are, for now, in semi-private rooms – only six prisoners were in evidence yesterday morning, although Achord said 120 men and 37 women were processed and moved out Tuesday. Cain said he expected more would be booked later for looting. “The worms come out at night,” he said. (Newsday, Sept. 8)

Oprah Winfrey, one of the few journalists who was able to tour the Superdome in the evacuation’s aftermath, says the hurricane victims are owed an apology.

“I think… this country owes these people an apology.

“This makes me so mad. This should not have happened.”

Winfrey wore a gas mask as she toured New Orleans’ now-empty Superdome, which housed thousands of people in disgusting conditions for several days.

She says, “Nothing I saw on television prepared me for what I experienced on the ground. (Hollywood, Sept. 8)

See our last post on Katrina’s aftermath.