Friday, November 2, 2012

Hurricanes and capitalism

Since the offices of The Militant are on West 37th Street in NYC, I'm not sure whether they will be putting out an issue this week, given Hurricane Sandy.

This article from 2008 sums up the hurrican question very well:

Hurricane response shows gov’t contempt for workers


HOUSTON, September 2—Hours after Hurricane Gustav hit the Gulf Coast about 70 miles southwest of New Orleans, Democratic and Republican politicians were congratulating themselves at having “dodged a bullet.” The storm passed without a collapse of the levees as happened during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. But the experience of working people remained unchanged from the callous government indifference they experienced three years ago.

Under the pressure of thousands of working people trying to return to their homes, New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin reversed an earlier decision to block their return and lifted police checkpoints into the city.

Not wanting to risk a repeat of the Katrina scandal, where more than 1,700 people died because of government inaction, city officials offered some access to buses, trains, and planes this time. Most people had little information about where they would be sent. They were just ordered to get out of town. Those who hesitated were threatened and bullied. Nagin announced a “dusk-to-dawn” curfew, warning that anyone who stepped outside their homes during these hours would be subject to arrest.

Anybody caught looting in New Orleans will go “directly to the big house,” the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola, Nagin said. He also announced that the National Guard and police force had been doubled.

“It’s like Katrina,” Eloise Williams, a retired health-care worker told the Militant by phone. We don’t know what we will be facing in the cities we are to be taken to.” Williams lives in the west bank Algiers section of the city with its smaller, older levee system that was likely to be breached by a direct hit from the storm.

A New York Times correspondent rode a bus that arrived at a shelter in Birmingham, Alabama, 12 hours after leaving New Orleans. The passengers, mostly workers, were never informed of their final destination. Once reaching the Birmingham shelter, they were not allowed to leave the bus for another hour, only to find the shelter was out of beds and food. Eventually more supplies arrived for the 1,200 people officials crammed into the facility designed for 500.

Howard Allen, a retired merchant seaman, remained with the few thousand who stayed in New Orleans. “I don’t have any money for expenses when I get there,” he said by phone.

Thousands from the coastal areas were crammed into shelters in northern and central Louisiana, as well as in Texas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, and Alabama.

Only in the week leading up to Gustav’s landing did government officials admit how little rebuilding of the levee system had been done, and how vulnerable the city, especially its working-class neighborhoods, were to a storm. There are still 350 miles of repairs to levees and other flood-protection infrastructure to be completed. The Los Angeles Times reported September 1 that “Congress has authorized programs totaling almost $15 billion to upgrade the entire system by 2011. But that project is only 25% complete.”

Working people have fared no better on repairs to housing devastated by Katrina. Three years later, some 65,000 damaged buildings and empty lots remain. Rents, meanwhile, have shot up 46 percent.

By contrast, the French Quarter a popular business district has long been restored.

On August 29 a few days before Gustav touched down, several protests took place in the city, marking the third anniversary of Katrina. More than 100 people rallied in the Lower 9th Ward and marched to a city park. They protested the fact that most public schools remain closed, as does the city’s public hospital. Working people throughout the city face a housing crisis while city officials are on a campaign to eliminate public housing. Marchers also demanded that August 29—the date that Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans—become a state holiday. That afternoon another rally of close to 200 gathered near the B.W. Cooper public housing development, which the city is in the process of demolishing. Sam Jackson, a resident of the complex, called for affordable public housing for all who need it.

From there demonstrators marched through the city. They stopped at Charity Hospital, the only public hospital, and demanded it be reopened. They also held a speakout against police brutality at the Greyhound bus station, which was turned into a jail after Katrina filled up the city prison with water while prisoners were locked inside.

Relatives of two men killed by police on the Danziger Bridge in the days following Katrina spoke against the recent decision to drop the charges against seven cops who shot the unarmed men. Demonstrators also rallied with day laborers demanding an end to raids and deportations of undocumented workers. The protest ended at the Treme Community Center, a building that used to house a public school. Many schools throughout the city remain closed. Some that have reopened have been turned into “charter schools.”

Amanda Ulman contributed to this article.

No comments:

Post a Comment