The central pain plaguing this city is the question of who is being helped to come back and who is being actively discouraged.
This week, four African American residents of New Orleans testified before Congress that what they experienced during Hurricae Katrina was “genocide and ethnic cleansing.” “People were allowed to die,” said Leah Hodges, whose brother is still missing, as quoted in the Times-Picayune. The very painful truth has also found symbolic expression in a persistent rumor, making the rounds of the Internet since early September and expressed at the hearing by Ninth Ward activist Mama D, that the levees were bombed to flood the Lower Ninth Ward.
Meanwhile, aside from the emotional pain and suffering, there remains the practical problem of where to sleep.
According to Jeremy Prickett, an activist with Anti-Eviction Common Ground, there were 10,000 evictions served in the New Orleans area in the month of November. Prickett, a machinist and a Marxist from Alameda, California, spends his days racing across the Crescent City Connection in a pickup truck trying to prevent landlords from throwing out their tenants, either legally or illegally, in pursuit of higher rents. His central efforts have been focused on the Louisbourg Square apartments in Terrytown, on the West Bank. On December 2, when we arrived, workers were using forklifts to scoop people’s belongings out of second-floor dwellings that appear undamaged by floodwater.
Bertha and Mary, two of the five or six female residents left in the complex, were standing outside, watching the destruction. On November 22, lawyers working with Common Ground and the People’s Hurricane Relief fund won a 45-day Eviction Moratorium, ordering that landlords must attempt to reach evacuees at their current addresses, provided by FEMA. But illegal evictions and those already in progress continue.