Protest in DC
Katrina - Never Forgive, Never Forget
Revolution #040, March 26, 2006, posted at revcom.us
Tuesday, March 14, was a very cold and windy day in DC. But the weather could not stop the determination of hundreds of people who came out to protest, march and rally in support of those who the government abandoned, evacuated, and dispersed across the country, separating people from their families in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The marchers went from the Capitol to the White House demanding that the government immediately stop its evictions of those who have been displaced from their homes in New Orleans.
The marchers demanded: “viable, affordable and immediately accessible housing for all those who were evacuated; protection of the right to vote for those who have been displaced to places like California, NY, Pennsylvania and DC.; Congressional passage of H.R. 4197, The Hurricane Recovery, Reclamation, Restoration, Reconstruction and Reunion Act”.
In a press release Rev. Lennox Yearwood of the Hip Hop Caucus who spearheaded the protest said: “…We have waited too long for FEMA, for the President and for Congress to act. We need to take to the streets, to show with our feet, our bodies and our voices that collectively we demand justice for all Katrina survivors now—not months from now.”
The march was led by drummers, followed by 25 to 30 people from New Orleans. Hundreds of others desired to come but could not get buses to bring them from the different states they have been evacuated to.
There were college students from the University of Maryland. Students from Prince George community college. High school students from Maryland as well as students from Las Vegas. Revolutionary communists. SEIU union workers. Laborers from Virginia. DC activists. Clergy. World Can’t Wait. NOI and other Muslims. National Organization for Women. One group was asking people: “if you ruled the world how would things be different?” The NAACP and ANSWER also participated in the march and rally.
Speakers at the rally were: Rev. Yearwood for the Hip Hop Caucus; Travis Morales of World Can’t Wait—Drive Out The Bush Regime; Congresswoman Maxine Waters; the Nation of Islam; NOW; a representative of United For Peace and Justice; Katrina Survivors and many others. The march and rally lasted from 2 p.m.to midnight with different kinds of activities.
When the march reached the FEMA building, it stopped. Rev. Yearwood told a very moving and heart-wrenching story—of a young teen age mother who had been driven to despair after being basically left to die by the government—she ended up committing suicide to escape this horror. He talked about how the government knew a natural disaster was unfolding and did nothing.
One woman said her relative died of a heart attack because of the conditions in the wake of Katrina. She said she still does not know where four of her family members are—whether they are dead or alive. One young man talked about the mental pain, the anguish of getting up each day and not knowing what was going to happen to him, whether he would have a place to lay his head or whether he would be on the streets with nothing and nowhere to go.
MASS MURDER BY THE SYSTEM
There are many theories out there about who and what is responsible for all the suffering caused by Katrina, and why Bush did what he did (and didn't do what he didn't do). But to get to the bottom of all this, people need to understand some cold but liberating truth: The neglect, abandonment, abuse, and brutality of Black people after Hurricane Katrina was a crime of the capitalist system.
This crime is connected to a whole legacy of slavery and oppression of Black people down to today. It hooks up with the fact that this system has always treated Black people as exploitable, expendable, and undesirable.
The government knew for years what would happen if a huge hurricane hit New Orleans. Hundreds of scientific reports predicted that the Black neighborhood of the 9th Ward, and the mainly working class neighborhood of St. Bernard, would be flushed away and the industrial districts and wealthy neighborhoods would survive. The way the levees were built made this all but inevitable. But Congress slashed funds for the levees and Bush cut those funds more. It was known for days, as Rev. Yearwood says, that Hurricane Katrina was coming, but the authorities failed to evacuate the city. Then after the storm hit on August 29, they abandoned the poorest sections of New Orleans, with the highest population of Black people. They left those most vulnerable to face the storms and flooding with no help of any kind. Bush refused to interrupt his vacation and allowed people to suffer and die for days. Over 1,000 died and hundreds of thousands suffered and are still suffering—unnecessarily.
Whether by negligence or design or a combination of both, this was MASS MURDER carried out by the authorities, beginning with Bush. THE BUSH REGIME MUST BE MADE TO POLITICALLY PAY FOR THIS CRIME!
Bush and the crew are not ordinary Christians. They are Christian fascists and nazis. What they did in the wake of Hurricane Katrina powerfully indicates that genocide is part of the program they have for all (not just Blacks) those whom they consider undesirable, punishment based on a literal interpretation of the Bible “to get America back into the good graces of god.”
The mood of those in the march was one of anger, outrage, and defiance. Many felt that the evictions were adding insult to injury. A Party supporter who attended the march described the conditions that the masses from New Orleans continue to face as a mugging that never stops. Never stops degrading you. Never stops de-humanizing you. An endless horror.
A college student from Morehouse said this is a “crime” that this is still going on. When is it going to stop?
A Black woman who works to build unity between Native Americans and Blacks said: “I never thought I would see ethnic cleansing in America… but here it is in front of our eyes.” In anger, others compared the forceful removal of poor Blacks and others in New Orleans with what is happening in DC, where there is a growing trend of the working poor being forced out of the city because of the high cost of living in DC.
The march received a lot of support from tourists and others along the route, with some of them joining in.
One of the high points of the rally was when Rev. Yearwood, Bilial Moron from New Orleans, and Dr. Rashad Zayban from Iraq were on stage together holding hands. In an interview, Rev. Yearwood told me that Dr. Zayban had sold her practice in Iraq to help people in Iraq who have been evicted by U.S. bombs and military occupation. She came in support of Black people displaced from New Orleans. Rev. Yearwood said that they wanted to draw the parallels between people who have been displaced and evacuated in New Orleans with those who have been displaced and evacuated in Iraq. Because, he said, we are not just victims of Katrina we are also victims of Bush.
Some of our party organizers in attendance were wearing t-shirts which said: WANTED FOR MASS MURDER – THE BUSH REGIME. These t-shirts have the pictures and profiles of Bush, Cheney, Chertoff (the head of Homeland Security) and Condoleezza Rice on them. Many youth told us they loved this t-shirt and wanted to know where they could get them. Revolutionary literature circulated among the crowd: The Revolution newspaper, the Chairman’s pocket-size statement on the death of comrade Mobile and the DVD sampler of the film of his talk: Revolution: Why it’s necessary, Why it’s possible, What it’s all about.
Masses of Blacks and others are still suffering. 10,000 families in Louisiana and Mississippi face evictions from hotels on March 15. Over 15,000 families across the United States have already received eviction notices, subjecting approximately 40,000 individuals to the prospect of homelessness. Currently, more than 300,000 survivors are dispersed in 44 states.
People are living in temporary housing, doubling up with other families, living in garages, out of cars, in tent or trailer “cities.” Tens of thousands of people are on waiting lists for trailers. In New Orleans many areas still don’t have electricity. Even some of the FEMA trailers don’t have power. At the beginning of December, only 10% of public buses were in operation and only ONE out of 116 public schools was open. And now it has come to light that it will be official policy to withhold rebuilding funds from the Black 9th Ward.
THOSE WHO ARE RESISTING MUST BE SUPPORTED. THE GOVERNMENT MUST PROVIDE DECENT HOUSING IN NEW ORLEANS FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO RETURN. JUSTICE MUST BE DONE FOR THOSE MURDERED BY THE AUTHORITIES.
NEVER FORGIVE…and NEVER FORGET!
Joe Veale, DC Correspondent