Saturday, September 17, 2005

Importance of Independent Media; The Vultures Circle in New Orleans; Galloway vs Hichens on the Bush Administration Response to Hurricane Katrina

(More than ever it should be clear the importance of independent media in providing a more complete story than the mainstream media does... as the mainstream corporate media, after their brief moments of outrage at the government (non) relief efforts in the Gulf Coast, fall-back-into-line and congratulate Bush on his piped-speech {scripted, no live audience} of empty promises thursday, independent news media like Democracy Now and Indy Media reporters were still fighting to bring the ignored stories to the world. Listening to the reports we have to consider whether the president's speech was directed toward the devastated, displaced citizens of New Orleans and concerned American citizens, or whether he was notifying the powerful to line up to once again sack the federal monies available in a large mobilization effort--along the lines of the stolen profits in Iraq.)

New Orleans Police Harass Independent Journalist
by Rosa Clemente and Amy Goodman
Democracy Now


AMY GOODMAN: President Bush speaking on Thursday from New Orleans. We're now joined by Rosa Clemente. She’s a Malcolm X fellow for the Institute of the Black World and an organizer with the Malcolm X Grass Roots Movement. She just drove in from New Orleans. Welcome to Democracy Now!.

ROSA CLEMENTE: Thanks for having me, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, you had quite an experience for the brief time you were there. Talk about why you were there and what happened?

ROSA CLEMENTE: I felt I needed to go, particularly as a younger person of color. I think this is a watershed moment for particularly black and people of African descent in America, and I wanted to be there. I didn't want it to be filtered through anyone's eyes but my own and my partner who went down with me, Brad Young. And it's just – It was my duty to be there, to be able to report back particularly to the hip hop generation, and I was also very upset at the low, low numbers of people of color, journalists, that I saw on the ground. The only ones I really saw were folks from CNN and mainstream media, and as I'm a proud member of alternative and progressive media here in New York, it was my duty to be there.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what happened when you went, particularly to look at the shelters? You went where, to the –

ROSA CLEMENTE: Well, first we went to New Orleans, and actually, we went to the Convention Center and, you know, just saw real estate speculators there and Blackwater mercenaries protecting property and didn't realize that the Marriott and the Wyndham hotel were across the Convention Center and began to ask the question: Why weren't those hotels taken over as eminent domain? That's the question I have. If someone can take my private property for – to build a highway or a medical facility, why were these hotels not opened to let these people not languish in what can only be described as a living hell. And to see the militarization. We then went to Algiers and spent the day with Malik Rahim. We could not leave because of the curfew, and that was a first experience for me. It was an experience to have an M-16 pointed at my car and from –

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?

ROSA CLEMENTE: When we got on I-10 West, we went to a military checkpoint, and when we pulled up, three of the National Guards just had M-16's pointed at the front of the car, and the side door and the side door, the two front doors. Then we went to the next military checkpoint, and they told us we could not go in at all. We snuck in and we got on Canal Street and we worked our way through that whole area. We then went to Algiers again to spend the day with Malik Rahim and also see the levee, and see what’s going on with that and to see the amazing work that Malik Rahim and Indymedia folks are doing by setting up a command center. It was amazing to be there to see that being built.

To Listen/Watch/Read the Entire Broadcast

More from Rosa Clemente:

Know Thy Self Promotions

Another report from Democracy Now:

The Militarization of New Orleans: Jeremy Scahill Reports from Louisiana



It's interesting, we talked earlier this week about the Blackwater mercenaries and I talked about my hour-long conversation with them when they had first arrived here, and I reported that they were saying they were on contract with the Department of Homeland Security. This, of course, was denied by the federal government. Well, now they have been forced to admit, the federal government, that Blackwater is on federal contract with FEMA to protect -- so-called protect, its rebuilding or reconstruction efforts in Louisiana. This is just one of the firms that is getting now federal money. I think that these firms view the current situation in Louisiana as the biggest pot of federal money to put their hands into since the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. I also, two days ago, had the chance to meet one of the wealthiest of citizens of New Orleans, F. Patrick Quinn III. He is the single greatest owner of private rooms in New Orleans. He owns the largest hotel chain in the state of Louisiana, to cater to hotels. He is currently -- he told me that his hotels are being looked at by FEMA to house the workers for the long haul of the so-called reconstruction. I was talking to him, as his head of security and after he pulled off in his S.U.V., about 30 Mexican workers came out of his hotel, and one of his security guards said that they had been brought in from Texas, and in fact another news report, about Patrick Quinn, said that he had brought in workers from Texas as well. So, we have the reality of these shelters full of people wanting work and then you see Mexican workers being brought in from Texas, and when they're done, doing this dirty work, they will be put on the back of trucks, piled into trucks and they go to wherever it is that they were staying.

This man, Patrick Quinn is bidding for these contracts where FEMA potentially could come in and rent out hundreds and hundreds of rooms in his hotel and other businesses are struggling to simply stay alive or scramble to get federal money to rebuild, he is standing to gain a tremendous amount of money from these lucrative federal contracts. It must be noted that he is a major contributor to the Republican party. In fact, his wife was just elected in the special election to the state Senate. Her name is Julie Quinn. And Amy, he has brought in security from a company called B.A.T.S. in Alabama: Bodyguard And Tactical Services. And I was talking to his head of security, I told him I was from New York, he said, I’ve been to New York during the daily news strike, referring to the strike the at the New York Daily News. Democracy Now! co-host, Juan Gonzalez, is a Daily News columnist was one of the leaders of the strike. I told him that Juan Gonzalez was a colleague of mine and he told me that he spiked Juan Gonzalez's car. He said he had put sugar in the gas tank of Juan Gonzalez's car. The man's name is Michael Montgomery, and he is the head of security for B.A.T.S. Security in Alabama, bragging about spiking the car of Juan Gonzalez and other strike leaders in the New York Daily News strike. He is heading up security for the Decatur Hotel chain, owned by Patrick Quinn, a major businessman in New Orleans, his wife a Republican state senator. This is just one example of cronyism that we see on the ground where the wealthy Republican contributors are being considered now for these tremendous federal contracts.


Right. I was just watching CNN and they were interviewing a guy they're called the pied piper of hurricane Katrina, a guy from Ohio, who has come to the Houston Astrodome to recruit 100 people who are -- who had left New Orleans to try to bring them to settle in Ohio. I mean, what they're really trying to do is to settle the poor and the African-American populations of New Orleans elsewhere. And to make New Orleans a nice, white city, for white, rich businessmen. There's no other way to put it. That's exactly what we're seeing right now. They want to take areas for instance like the ninth ward and turn them into big -- you know, Wal-Mart type neighborhoods. In fact, we heard mayor Nagin talk yesterday about how one of the first things they want to do is set up a gigantic Wal-Mart so people returning can have a place to shop in New Orleans. This hurricane is the greatest thing to happen to Wal-Mart since the superstore. And this is a very serious racist series of actions that we're seeing here right now. This is has everything to do with class and everything to do with race, and it's very, very frightening. And yes, we attended a conference where grassroots activists are talking about a plan for rebuilding New Orleans, but it's on right now, and they're not a part of it. The people that are a part of it are old-time Louisiana white Republican families working in conjunction with their friend, mayor Ray Nagin, and there's no other way to put it. They love Ray Nagin. He's pro-business. He's their guy.

Look at the comments of James Rice, a local businessman, who is one of the leaders of the private Audubon Place, the gated community. The only privately owned in the city of New Orleans. He told The Wall Street Journal, “Those who want to see this city rebuilt want to see it done in a completely different way, demographically, geographically and politically. I'm not just speaking for myself here. The way we have been living is not going to happen again or we’re out.” James Rice has brought in Israeli para-militaries to guard his facility. It's Israeli company that brags about having former members of the Shin Beit, the GSS, the Israeli Defense Forces. He has brought them in. I was talking to them in front of his property. Some of them participated in the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, and these are guys now who are patrolling outside on St. Charles avenue in front of Audubon Place and will potentially come into conflict with residents of New Orleans. What on earth are Israeli paramilitaries doing on the streets of New Orleans? These are the questions that people need to ask right now, defending a man like James Rice who was called for the poor to not be allowed back into New Orleans.


Amy Goodman Reporting on George Galloway vs. Christopher Hitchens on the Bush Administration Response to Hurricane Katrina

To Watch the Entire Debate Between George Galloway and Christopher Hitchens on the Bush Administration Response to Hurricane Katrina

Mr Galloway Goes to Washington

AlterNet's Continuing Coverage of the Aftermath of Hurrican Katrina

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