Revolution #210, August 29, 2010
Massacre at Danziger Bridge: Shot in Cold Blood by New Orleans Police
On September 4, 2005, six days after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, 19-year-old James Brissette and 40-year-old Ronald Madison were murdered by New Orleans police on the Danziger Bridge. The two men were among people who were walking across the concrete lift bridge to get food at a grocery store. Madison, who was mentally disabled, had a hole torn through his spine and chest when he was shot in the back with a shotgun by a cop, who then proceeded to kick him mercilessly. A witness said the cops had lined up "like at a firing range" and shot at Ronald as he tried to flee the bridge.
Ronald had been trying to run away from a scene unfolding at the other end of the bridge, where horrible carnage had already taken place. James Brissette lay dying, and four people were severely wounded, by police bullets. One of the victims, Susan Bartholomew, had an arm partially blown off, and her daughter and husband were each shot three times. Then, in the words of a cop who had been on the bridge, NOPD sergeant Kenneth Bowen "leaned over the concrete barrier, held out his assault rifle, and, in a sweeping motion, fired repeatedly at the civilians lying wounded on the ground."
In December 2006, a Louisiana grand jury charged seven cops involved in the Danziger Bridge massacre with murder and attempted murder. But two years later, a judge ordered the charges dropped because of "prosecutorial error." A federal investigation began at that point. In April this year, NOPD officer Michael Hunter pleaded guilty in federal court to his role in the police cover-up of the slaughter that had taken place on the bridge. The cover-up began at the scene of the killings, when the cops placed throw-down guns near the victims and fabricated false reports, and it penetrated every layer of the New Orleans Police Department. In return for his plea, resulting in the dropping of the state charges against him, Hunter agreed to cooperate with an ongoing federal investigation into the shootings.
In July of this year, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder went to New Orleans to announce federal indictments of the other six cops who had been on Danziger Bridge. The indictments are for "violating the civil rights" of Ronald Madison and James Brissette, and for "obstructing justice." Holder said he "will not tolerate wrongdoing by those who have sworn to protect the public" and promised to "restore" the NOPD.
Revolution will have further analysis of these important developments. But what is already clear is that the federal indictments are intended to strengthen the ability of the NOPD to repress, control, and yes, terrorize, the people of New Orleans—especially the Black people who have remained in the city. When officials like Holder talk about "restoring trust in the police department," they mean, among other things, establishing a network of snitches who cooperate with the police as they continue their marauding, and they fear the fury many people in the city have at the abuse, brutality, murder, and unjust convictions that are a plague upon the people, especially the youth.
Postscript—a New Orleans vignette. August 3 was the 27th annual "National Night Out Against Crime," billed as a country-wide event to "promote neighborhood spirit and community-police partnerships in our fight for a safer nation." A small rally in the Algiers section of town became a speak-out against the brutality of the NOPD and how they literally get away with murder, and a memorial for those killed by the police. Victims of police brutality and family members of people killed by the NOPD spoke bitterly, and began chanting "no justice, no peace!"
A revolutionary who was in town spreading the campaign The Revolution We Need ... the Leadership We Have was asked to speak, and read from the Message and Call of the RCP: "Look at what this system is doing to youth right here in the USA. For millions in the inner cities, if they are not killed at an early age, their likely future is prison (nearly 1 in 8 young Black men is incarcerated, the prisons are overflowing with Blacks and Latinos, and this country has the highest rate of incarceration of women in the world). This system has robbed so many youth of the chance for a decent life and has got far too many living, dying and killing for nothing—nothing good—nothing more than messing up people and murdering each other on the streets of the cities here...or joining the military, being trained to be murderers on a mass scale, massacring people in countries across the globe. A system which offers millions and millions of youth no greater purpose, no better fate, than crime and punishment, or to become a mindless killing machine for the system itself—that alone is reason enough to sweep this system from the face of the earth!"
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