Law Enforcement prevented people from leaving New Orleans on foot

As I am inured the callousness and ineptitude of public employees, it rarely shocks me, but this is an exception.

As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander’s assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.

We questioned why we couldn’t cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the six-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their city. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans.

Our small group retreated back down Highway 90 to seek shelter from the rain under an overpass. We debated our options and in the end decided to build an encampment in the middle of the Ponchartrain Expressway on the center divide, between the O’Keefe and Tchoupitoulas exits. We reasoned we would be visible to everyone; we would have some security, being on an elevated freeway; and we could wait and watch for the arrival of the yet-to-be-seen buses.

All day long, we saw other families, individuals and groups make the same trip up the incline in an attempt to cross the bridge, only to be turned away. Some chased away with gunfire, others simply told no, others to be verbally berated and humiliated. Thousands of New Orleaners were prevented and prohibited from self-evacuating the city on foot. Meanwhile, the only two city shelters sank further into squalor and disrepair. The only way across the bridge was by vehicle. We saw workers stealing trucks, buses, moving vans, semi-trucks and any car that could be hotwired. All were packed with people trying to escape the misery New Orleans had become.
[snip "looting"]
Flush with the necessities, we offered food and water to passing families and individuals. Many decided to stay and join us. Our encampment grew to 80 or 90 people.

From a woman with a battery powered radio we learned that the media was talking about us. Up in full view on the freeway, every relief and news organizations saw us on their way into the city. Officials were being asked what they were going to do about all those families living up on the freeway? The officials responded they were going to take care of us. Some of us got a sinking feeling. “Taking care of us” had an ominous tone to it.

Unfortunately, our sinking feeling (along with the sinking city) was correct. Just as dusk set in, a Gretna Sheriff showed up, jumped out of his patrol vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces, screaming, “Get off the fucking freeway”. A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck with our food and water.

Once again, at gunpoint, we were forced off the freeway. All the law enforcement agencies appeared threatened when we congregated or congealed into groups of 20 or more. In every congregation of “victims” they saw “mob” or “riot”. We felt safety in numbers. Our “we must stay together” was impossible because the agencies would force us into small atomized groups.

In the pandemonium of having our camp raided and destroyed, we scattered once again. Reduced to a small group of eight people, in the dark, we sought refuge in an abandoned school bus, under the freeway on Cilo Street. We were hiding from possible criminal elements, but equally and definitely we were hiding from the police and sheriffs with their martial law, curfew, and shoot-to-kill policies.

Read the analysis, with links to corroborating accounts, or the original report.

My usual response in the fact of governmental incompetence is standard libertarian analysis, since understanding the root causes and having ideas about how to fix them provide some comfort. But such a response fails me utterly here, for this was not merely an inefficient waste of resources, it was callous and deliberate cruelty to the hapless victims of a mind-numbing tragedy by those assigned to help. This is the realm of Milgram and Zimbardo, not Smith, and it makes me much angrier because I have not yet become blasé from overexposure.

I hope I never do.

(hat tip Marginal Revolution)

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I'd say the key elements of

I'd say the key elements of the story have been confirmed:

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/americas/article311784.ece

First sentence: "A Louisiana police chief has admitted that he ordered his officers to block a bridge over the Mississippi river and force escaping evacuees back into the chaos and danger of New Orleans."

CNN has now picked up the

CNN has now picked up the story.

http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/09/13/katrina.bridge/

Apparently Gretna had evacuated, and Gretna law enforcement viewed themselves as protecting the unoccupied property of its citizens from potential looting.

The mayor of New Orleans

The mayor of New Orleans seemed to think that people were turned back at that bridge by police w/ guns, see here. He says it was b/c a looter got across there and caused problems in a shopping center.

I have seen this article

I have seen this article previously and have read numerous comments from others posting on it that claim it might be faked. Part of the story, the bit about paying 25,000 dollars to rent buses which were then commandeered by the police (not shown in above excerpt) is taken right from another story about hotel employees in such a situation. The guy who wrote it also writes from world socialist worker or some such organization. An easy indicator of bias. You guys should be more careful in finding and researching your sources of information.