Entry for September 16, 2005

 Aid for Katrina Sufferers

Filmmaker and self-admitted gadfly Michael Moore closed his  New York production office last week  and sent the  staff down to New Orleans to set up   relief efforts on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain with the Veterans for Peace.  VFP is the same group that had set up Cindy Sheehan’s camp in Crawford and now they had moved Camp Casey to Covington Louisiana.

If you go, keep in mind that you MUST be self-sufficient. Bring a tent and a sleeping bag. People are driving  there from across the country. They may  have extra room for you or  more supplies. It would be especially helpful to send the supplies in  reusable containers and list the contents on the outside of the package so that folks in the warehouse can easily sort the items.   For more information, go to the Veterans for Peace message board. 

 Or you can send supplies via UPS to VFP, Omni Storage, 74145 Hwy. 25, Covington LA. 

Moore writes, 

“We did this when the government was doing nothing and the Red Cross was still trying to get it together. Every day, every minute was critical. People were dying, poor people, black people, left like so much trash in the street. I wanted to find a way to get aid in there immediately….

Our group has visited many outlying towns and villages in Mississippi and Louisiana, places the Red Cross and FEMA haven’t visited in over a week. Often our volunteers are the first relief any of these people have seen. They have no food, water or electricity. People die every day. There are no TV cameras recording this. They have started to report the spin and PR put out by the White House, the happy news that often isn’t true (“Everyone gets 2,000 dollars!”).

The truth is that there are dead bodies everywhere and no one is picking them up. My crew reports that in most areas there is no FEMA presence, and very little Red Cross. It’s been over two weeks since the hurricane and there is simply not much being done. At this point, would you call this situation incompetence or a purposeful refusal to get real help down there?

Read the volunteers  diaries at Moore’s site.  It’s not working exactly right, but I’ve sent them a message, so soon, maybe.  Here’s Jason, writing on resiliance:

Left behind by the government before the storm, they feel equally as forgotten after the storm. No one had even been able to connect with FEMA. Most people call all day everyday and get no one on the other end.

The Red Cross is non-existent too. One resident told me a story of a Red Cross truck driving through their neighborhood. They ran out to ask them where the Red Cross base was around here and they were told, “We don’t know.”

Plenty, the internatonal relief group of the Tennessee intentional community, The Farm in also working with VFP.  Peter Schweitzer writes as of September 12,  of the group’s efforts in Covington and this account by a nurse in Wiggins Mississippi, where the group is ready to deploy help:

[T]hey’re all so exhausted they need people who are organized who can come and do the thinking for them for a while. They’re just too tired to think.

They got boxes of clothes from one of the big agencies, but they were left over from hurricane Andrew and when they opened the boxes, the clothes reeked. She said they get aid workers but it takes them some time to get over the culture shock, adjust to the flies and mosquitoes and smell and the heat, and get integrated to where they’re starting to be some help, and they leave because they got reassigned.

 Food Not Bombs has set up kitchens in Covington, Baton Rouge and Houston

Meanwhile things got really surreal when the military asked the anarchists for relief help  A medical military clinic commander asked the folks running the Common Ground Clinic if they could lend a few medics and doctors to the military until the military sets up a “permanent” health clinic on Newton Avenue on Monday. 

 Andrea Garland, from  the Bywater, 9th Ward, New Orleans reports on returning home after assisting in Covington:

[T]he dry neighborhoods in New Orleans (all along the river) are deserted, with no signs of clean up or other work. But when you get into the Central Business District and the French Quarter, there are all sorts of private contractors – mostly sitting around, doing nothing but eating catered food. Blackhawk Security is there, as well as something called ‘Incident Catering.’ Meanwhile, the residents are still refused food or assistance. Once back out of the Quarter, we return to desolate neighborhoods.

She continues:

Haliburton has the contract to clean up the city, the developers are salivating at the ‘new’ New Orleans they will build, and the lower ninth and all the dead people in its attics are to be bulldozed so the land can be turned into a barrier reef to protect the city. Ain’t that lovely?

Only one thing – the powers that be are not from New Orleans and they don’t know that this city is born of hardship and survives not despite, but because of it. We have been forced into the outside world these last couple of weeks – and while I want to make it clear that the love and support of the American people has been phenomenal – there is no place like home and we are not going to watch it be taken from us.

So we are going back. We’re going to shove the muck on the first floor as far back as we can and set up a soup kitchen and a distribution center. Daniel is going to set up an animal sanctuary in the back yard. We’ve heard that the National Guard there is friendly, and our friend James will be our liason and run supplies for us. Tomorrow I’ll be figuring out the intricacies of having myself an online connection in the middle of a half destroyed war zone, so don’t worry – we’ll be coming to you live.

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