Police agencies to the south of New Orleans were so fearful of the crowds trying
to leave the city after Hurricane Katrina that they sealed a crucial bridge over
the Mississippi River and turned back hundreds of desperate evacuees, two
paramedics who were in the crowd said.
The paramedics and two other
witnesses said officers sometimes shot guns over the heads of fleeing people,
who, instead of complying immediately with orders to leave the bridge, pleaded
to be let through, the paramedics and two other witnesses said. The witnesses
said they had been told by the New Orleans police to cross that same bridge
because buses were waiting for them there.
Instead, a suburban police
officer angrily ordered about 200 people to abandon an encampment between the
highways near the bridge. The officer then confiscated their food and water, the
four witnesses said. The incidents took place in the first days after the storm
last week, they said.
"The police kept saying, 'We don't want another
Superdome,' and 'This isn't New Orleans,' " said Larry Bradshaw, a San Francisco
paramedic who was among those fleeing.
Arthur Lawson, chief of the
Gretna, La., Police Department, confirmed that his officers, along with those
from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office and the Crescent City Connection
Police, sealed the bridge.
"There was no place for them to come on our
side," Mr. Lawson said.
He said that he had been asked by reporters
about officers threatening victims with guns or shooting over their heads, but
he said that he had not yet asked his officers about that.
"As soon as
things calm down, we will do an inquiry and find out what happened," he said.
Does no one else remember the civil rights struggles of the '60's, and the simple fact that justice was only done when it was taken out of the hands of parochial and racist interests?
Have we forgotten everything in one generation? Was Hunter Thompson right, and this is a "Generation of Swine"?
Is there no balm in Gilead?