From the Field

Reporting live from New Orleans, where I’m sneaking a quick trip to the gym b/w meetings.  Since I’ve arrived I’ve seen this image (Geaux Obama!) and also a woman wearing a t-shirt with Obama’s image that says “Prince” beneath it.  (And no, I don’t think this means he’s named Prince as his running mate.)

I also just sat down with a public housing activist and resident, an older African-American man, who is not voting this year because, as a Clinton supporter, he doesn’t think Obama can get the job done, and he’s not voting for McCain.  He doesn’t think Obama can do the job like past Presidents, incl. Clinton, our first “black president,” he reminded me.  Obama will not be that, he told me.

What’s that now about bitter old white women??

The trip is intense, I’m here for some consulting work, and just spent the morning in Orleans Parish Criminal Court showing support for two activists who chained themselves to the B.W. Cooper projects to prevent demolition.  They’re now being falsely charged with carrying an explosive device.  I joined a group of activists wearing t-shirts crying “Protest is not terrorism” (I also had one on).   The case of this activist has to be reassigned to a new judge, and the other activist (both white women, btw) is supposed to begin tomorrow.  If you could have seen this activist – she is older (50s?  60s?) and somewhat frail physically, but tough as nails and was passing around a card for us to sign for her co-protester.

The most disturbing thing about the courtroom was seeing the Orleans Parish Prison inmates waiting to be arraigned.  A thin, soft-spoken guy being charged with possession of cocaine – in chains.  They were all in chains, hands shackled at their waste, in bright orange print saying “OPP INMATE” in big letters.  All African-American men.  My interviewee this morning told me the state is planning to spend all this money on more or refurbished jail cells, while the Mayor and City Council continue to harrass the homeless living in the tent city under the highway.

Welcome to post-Katrina New Orleans, which activists describe the case of the BW Cooper Two as the place where “Bush’s War on Terror” meets “Nagin’s War on the Poor.”  I’m pretty sure Nagin’s not fighting that war on his own!


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