An Occurrence at Gretna Bridge

CNN.com reports that as the heart of a hurricane-ravaged New Orleans filled with sewage-tainted floodwaters and corpses, Mayor Ray Nagin urged people to cross a bridge leading to the dry lands of the city’s suburban west bank.

And there begins the story of what might become the worst American civil rights episode ushering in the 21st Century.

The lead actors in this two-bit replay of the Bloody Sunday attempted crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge 40 years ago by blacks demanding the right to vote, are a police chief and a sheriff who are now as famous as Bull Connor. But sadly, share some of his attributes, too.

It is reported that during the 1980s, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee ordered special scrutiny for any black people traveling in white sections of the parish. He is quoted by the New Orleans Gambit as having said, “It’s obvious that two young blacks driving a rinky-dink car in a predominantly white neighborhood . . . They’ll be stopped.”

In 1994, the Gambit reports Sheriff Lee withdrew his officers from a predominantly black neighborhood after protests erupted when two black men died while in his care. He is reported to have said, “To hell with them, I haven’t heard one word of support from one black person.”

In April of this year, blacks complained that Jefferson Parish officers were using a caricature of a black man for target practice.
Sheriff Lee laughed when presented the charges and is reported to have commented, “I’ve looked at it, I don’t find it offensive, and I have no interest in correcting it.”

In May of this year, a 16-year old joy rider in a stolen car was murdered when 110 shots were fired into the stolen truck, striking the 16-year old and injuring two other teenaged passengers. In response to criticism from black ministers over the incident, Sheriff Lee is reported to have responded, “They can kiss my ass.”

City of Gretna police chief Arthur Lawson is equally impressive. His justification for trapping Katrina survivors in New Orleans is, he is reported to have said, “If we had opened the bridge, our city would have looked like New Orleans does now: looted, burned and pillaged.”

Eyewitnesses report that before they were close enough to speak, officers began firing their weapons over the heads of the New Orleans survivors. Other officers are reported to have said that they wanted “no Superdomes in their city.”

The world got a chance to see what too many of us here in this country already know: that racism is alive and well in America.
Could it be that the police chief and the sheriff are guilty of a hate crime? How can federally funded roads be blocked by local officials at a time of emergency? Where was the Federal Government that should have been ensuring the lives of all Katrina survivors?
Didn’t the New Orleans survivors have the right to life? And civil rights?

And where’s the outrage?

I’ve personally learned that many people black and white are outraged about what happened. But you wouldn’t know that by the response up here on Capitol Hill, where one of my colleagues is reported to have said to a group of lobbyists: We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn’t do it, but God did.”

No one has asked for his resignation, no one has even suggested that he could have chosen less offensive language-no one has suggested that they were offended at all by what he said. And so we are left with what too many New Orleans residents quietly suffered for years:
the soft underbelly of American racism.

The Justice Department should investigate this very sad incident.

Today I will introduce legislation to strip all federal funds from the Gretna City Police Department, the Jefferson Parish Police, and the Crescent City Connection security force, all reportedly involved in the tragic blocking of the Gretna City bridge.

This is not 1965. Sadly, Gretna City Police Chief Lawson and Jefferson Parish Sheriff Lee sunk to the low ground by denying high ground to people fleeing Katrina’s floodwaters. And thanks to their and their officers’ actions, the Gretna City Bridge incident will live on in civil rights history just as does Bloody Sunday at the Edmund Pettus Bridge.



More articles by:
March 19, 2018
Henry Heller
The Moment of Trump
John Davis
Pristine Buildings, Tarnished Architect
Uri Avnery
The Fake Enemy
Patrick Cockburn
The Fall of Afrin and the Next Phase of the Syrian War
Nick Pemberton
The Democrats Can’t Save Us
Nomi Prins 
Jared Kushner, RIP: a Political Obituary for the President’s Son-in-Law
Georgina Downs
The Double Standards and Hypocrisy of the UK Government Over the ‘Nerve Agent’ Spy Poisoning
Dean Baker
Trump and the Federal Reserve
Colin Todhunter
The Strategy of Tension Towards Russia and the Push to Nuclear War
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
US Empire on Decline
Ralph Nader
Ahoy America, Give Trump a Taste of His Own Medicine Starting on Trump Imitation Day
Robert Dodge
Eliminate Nuclear Weapons by Divesting from Them
Laura Finley
Shame on You, Katy Perry
Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes
John W. Whitehead
Say No to “Hardening” the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops
Edward Hunt
UN: US Attack On Syrian Civilians Violated International Law
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Outside History
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Long Hard Road
Victor Grossman
Germany: New Faces, Old Policies
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion
Binoy Kampmark
Amazon’s Initiative: Digital Assistants, Home Surveillance and Data
Chuck Collins
Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line
Jill Richardson
What We Talk About When We Talk About “Free Trade”
Eric Lerner – Jay Arena
A Spark to a Wider Fire: Movement Against Immigrant Detention in New Jersey
Negin Owliaei
Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It