Power to the victims of New Orleans, Naomi Klein, The Guardian
On September 4, six days after Katrina hit, I saw the first glimmer of hope. “The people of New Orleans will not go quietly into the night, scattering across this country to become homeless in countless other cities while federal relief funds are funnelled into rebuilding casinos, hotels, chemical plants. We will not stand idly by while this disaster is used as an opportunity to replace our homes with newly built mansions and condos in a gentrified New Orleans.”The statement came from Community Labor United, a coalition of low-income groups in New Orleans. It went on to demand that a committee made up of evacuees “oversee Fema, the Red Cross and other organisations collecting resources on behalf of our people. We are calling for evacuees from our community to actively participate in the rebuilding of New Orleans.”
There are already signs that New Orleans evacuees could face a similarly brutal second storm. Jimmy Reiss, chairman of the New Orleans Business Council, told Newsweek that he has been brainstorming about how “to use this catastrophe as a once-in-an-eon opportunity to change the dynamic”. The council’s wish list is well-known: low wages, low taxes, more luxury condos and hotels.
Before the flood, this highly profitable vision was already displacing thousands of poor African-Americans: while their music and culture was for sale in an increasingly corporatised French Quarter (where only 4.3% of residents are black), their housing developments were being torn down. “For white tourists and businesspeople, New Orleans’s reputation means a great place to have a vacation, but don’t leave the French Quarter or you’ll get shot,” Jordan Flaherty, a New Orleans-based labour organiser told me the day after he left the city by boat. “Now the developers have their big chance to disperse the obstacle to gentrification – poor people.”