Climate Chaos Prisons – Being Imprisoned in Post Katrina New Orleans

The Hurricane Katrina was the highest Level 5 Hurricane,  a cataclysmic Level 5 which up to recently occurred only once a decade and which now are a yearly occurrence typical of emerging global Climate Chaos. Katrina became symbolic of effect of Climate Change on poor communities world-wide. It also became a symbol of disaster profiteering and repression; of forcing all inhabitants out of the city as the military, police, Black Water and private contractors and corporation appropriated, homes properties and resources of the victims of the disaster, putting large portion of them in detention centers and prisons. It also became a testing ground for new draconian provisions of the Patriot Act put in place after 9/11 World Trade attack which established state of de facto permanent martial law in US with its heightened state of surveillance and repression. Not addressing social and ecological problems and instability that climate change generates, instead using it to instill regime that protects fossil fuel regimes and continues its fuel wars and waves of repression. Channeling more resources and financing to arising tide of global right wing and fundamentalist terrorism. It has also notched up this emerging reality of disaster capitalism by declaring all “natural” disaster areas to be automatic martial law areas. A similar law has recently been passed in Germany allowing armed german military to be used in the streets during time of any emergency following a 70 year constitutional prohibition. The american version also set up ground rules of a war zone in disaster areas dealing with victims of the catastrophe as with “hostile” population by forbidding NGO such as Salvation Army and Red Cross from entering the disaster area. With all the critique of those NGOs they previously provided disasters infrastructure of mobile kitchens, clothing and food donations and mobile disaster camps. In their place NGO with which US government signed a contract to assist in time of disaster was, yes, the Church of Scientology. They would set up tables with toothpaste, clean socks and underwear for the cops and the military and also engage in running large disaster operations such as shelters and animal rescue but only outside of the disaster area or for shipping the animals to undocumented and untracked locations. I ran into them for the first time outside of Baton Rouge Disaster Shelter heading into new Orleans to help out, they informed me that they were “disaster professionals” and proceeded to tell me that the people in New Orleans were all raping each other as they were trapped on rooftops, and, oh yeah, that they all had AIDS. They attempted to film me as they were saying this. It was not a coincidence that it was this secretive and repressive organization known for declaring its own dissenting members insane and locking them up internally that was put in the place of other NGOs by the Bush regime, as the US gov needed an accomplice that would not raise a voice of protest and had very little focus on social and race issues.

After coming into the city on day “8th” after Katrina’s impact for two weeks I engaged in animal rescue from city that resembled a sci fi zombie apocalypse reality with no inhabitants just the state police zombies telling everybody to leave the city after the water receded quoting evacuation orders questioned by the major of the city and removing many by force, with the military driving around with their flat speakers arrays that are also used as sonic crowd-control weapons broadcasting surreal sounding messages announcing that the “Drinking Water has been contaminated, you are ordered to leave the city.” I stayed. Somebody afterwards commented that at that time there were only 3 types of people in New Orleans:
1.Cops and the Military
2.Hardcore activists.
3.Disaster Fetishists.
Its embarrassing to admit that at the time I fell in the last category. At the same time it was also a love of the City that helped me so much when I felt so displaced in America that kept me from leaving as well.
After engaging in animal rescue for two weeks, with many animals being left locked up for that duration with evacuees being forbidden from taking their pets with them, I was taken to a hospital by the head of that “operation” for a cut on my hand. Taken to a an underground parking garage where a military field hospital was set up for “first responders” cops, military, and those engaging in official disaster “relief” this facility looked quite different than the one I have seen before for civilian population in a single military tent outside of one of the local flooded hospitals. The civilian facility did not have anybody to treat as everybody was gone, the military one was a small city full of surgeons, equipment and was full of activity. Symbolic how militarized the city has become and also Signifying two parallel realities of climate crisis apartheid: drawing a wedge between two populations separating the poor, now turned into climate refugees in far away cities, further and further apart and forecufullly keeping them that way. The head of the shelter took one of the military doctors in uniform aside and explained something looking at me. The soldier doctor came back to me and asked me what year it was and who was the president. With Bush a pres like now with Trump you needed to be an extreme catatonic to have missed that news. Still: “Fuck” I remember thinking “what type of mental “health” facility will I be directed to now?”. Regardless of the answers I was told by the military medic that I was now under detention and could not leave. I looked for the shelter dude for explanation, but he was gone in his place a cop showed up who approached me angrily and asked me quickly about what SPCA stood for,Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is the official animal rescue organization that each year anesthetizes millions of unwanted cats and dogs. He did not wait for answer and quickly followed it up by “you are being arrested for impersonating law enforcement officer.” For me being part of the official upper class elite of disaster professionals was not to be…. I was taken to the police station. Central Police station has been flooded by Katrina so now that honor and distinction felt appropriately to one of those big Wal-Mart Stores that litter the US. The store was commandeered for disaster “recovery”, Shelves towards the back of the store were still in place with cops wondering through with shopping baskets requisitioning what they needed, the shelves however were moved back in the area close to the door and in an open space a circle of about 20 plastic chairs was set-up with as many cops sitting in them and having numerous energized discussions full of jokes and laughter. I was walked into a center of the circle, the conversations stopped and a question was directed to me by one of them: “Where do you live?” – “In an Animal Shelter.” I answered. The whole circle immediately bursted out into loud laughter, with the cop asking waving me away royally with a single hand. My interrogation and audience was over I have served my purpose of adding even more humor to this sad situation and to keep them laughing. I was taken in Front of the door of the “station” under the big WalMart sign where the head of the shelter has resurfaced mysteriously holding a pedigree boxer. Cops would give us dogs they found, rare breeds, exclusively large dogs and ask for them to be kept for them for later pick up. There was one cop even assigned for protection of the animal rescue operation walking around dressed like an office worker with a small gun holster clipped on to his belt who would approach each shipment of disaster relief supplies that would arrive and personally take big bags of dog food bearing golden labels of high quality product for pedigree and performance dogs and putt it on the side and give the supply driver addresses of warehouses to take the selected stuff back to.

As I stood there 2 young cops walked out in civilian clothing as at that time none of the cops were wearing their uniforms and I remember staring at them with a WTF feeling as they were singing a song from the 80s about messing people up. They were in a high energy state you usually see drunk assholes being in when going to a bar or coming back from one, like kids who are in a state of high excitement play-fighting. I recognized both of the cops later as Robert Evangelist and Lance Schilling after their photos appeared all over international mainstream media. Later the same day or within a day or two they have questioned a retired teacher about what he was doing in a disaster zone with an order for all to evacuate. He answered that he came back to check on his home. Walking away he made a comment complaining about the nighttime curfew. Questioning the disaster authority was not cool so as Davis was walking away he was punched in the face by one of the cops and then both of them proceeded to severely beat and kick him while he was on the ground, the protesting bystanders, trying to stop this were beat up by two FBI agents on the scene and none of this would have gotten any attention if it was not for AP reporter on the scene who filmed the incident and seeing the severity of the beatdown that resulted in head concussion decided to try to stop it as well. Yeah he was beat up as well.
Rather unusually for the States the two cops were fired. Evangelist was however reinstated in 2009 and Schilling ended up committing suicide after being fired.

My ride arrived; I was being taken to a climate disaster “jail” which turned out to be now the Greyhound Bus Station, this was after local jail flooded and prisoner were abandoned with sewage water up to their necks for 2 days with others being rounded up and kept outside on highway overpasses under armed guard for a week. With media like always instead focusing on mass prison escapes and sniper attacks to drumming up fear and paranoia justifying the brutal police and military presence. Both events later turning out to be fabrications that never have taken place. And yet like in Hambi manufacturing atmosphere of fear alowed the black population to be rounded up and dispossessed and detained with little mainstream support or discussion.
Above the entrance to the station hung a banner that proclaimed “We are taking our City Back!” As upbeat as it sounded it was also an admission that law enforcement “lost” the city with the whole city being full of abandoned police cars most with the back windows broken appearing as the cars were left behind even with people lacked up in the back. Following the destruction and abandonment of their official police cars, a Cadillac Car Dealership in the city offered its fleet of vehicles to the new Orleans Police Dept. Which resulted in public announcement on TV after the hurricane on TV by this “helpful” business owner stating that he “did not mind lending his vehicles to the police in the time of emergency but would they please bring the cars back to the dealership.”: large number of tcops used the cars to leave the city and never return the cars at least. As Tv stations came back on the air a month later other news was the trial of two nurses who were in charge of a retirement home who when forced to evacuate the elderly they were in charge of instead of struggling with moving their 14 bed-ridden patients instead just injected them with overdoses of muscle relaxants and killed all 14 leaving them behind in their beds.

Inside of the bus station was a surreal atmosphere with cops hanging out behind tickets counters and drinking coffee, there was no questions, no admission process, no id checks with a large mural decorating the walls of the station showing history of Louisiana and New Orleans with Hooded figures of the Klu Klux Klan being featured prominently in its design right above the cops at the ticket-counter. Without any verbal interactions I felt a bit like human luggage being taken out through the back doors.  Out on the former parking space for departing buses was the whole jail for the Town of New Orleans a town two weeks earlier comprising a population of over 1 million. It comprised of 3 tall chain link enclosures built on top of exact parking spaces of the buses as if intentionally on the oil stains left in the center.  The same tactic was used on “Gitmo on the Hudson” facility for holding activists arrested against republican conventions where the fence pens were placed on greasy and dirty warehouse floor with no blankets or anything to sit or lay on, forcing anybody that sat down or laid down to turn into a greasy stain themselves.

The first enclosure contained 2 guys, a single women pacing in circles in the second one, and a police dog, pacing and running even faster in circles in the third enclosure. I remember not just being surprised that animals and humans are kept in the same fence cubicles but also wondering whether keeping a police dog next to prisoners was not an act of intimidation. As I entered the enclosure holding the two guys I joined their excited conversation as they immediately warned me to think twice if I want to raise any voice of protest. Right before I came in there was another 3rd prisoner who was constantly raising a voice of protest and informing the cops that they were violating his human rights, the cops told him to shut up couple times and then obviously loosing their patience one of them ran up to the fence stuck a shotgun through the chain-link and shot the guy in the stomach who instantaneously dropped down on the ground with the 2 guys I was talking to freeing thinking that he has just been killed. After several second though, he begun to move again got up and as he did more cops came in opened the door and took him out somewhere. He was shot with a shotgun shell, containing the “less than lethal” “bean bag”. As my fence-cage-comrades said this they pulled out a small colorful bag containing what seemed like sand that was left behind to illustrate their point. After several hours they just opened the door and let me go. This was the second time I was being released from a net of forced evacuation, forcefully moving every citizen out of town so multinationals such as Halliburton could move in and privatize for trillions the process of disaster of recovery. A process in which there would be very little to privatize if the citizens were allowed to stay(most of NO was not flooded it was only poor areas that did and even there it was only for 2-5 days) yet the whole population of the city was moved to refugee centers around the states with many of the poorer and minority residents never returning.

After being released I was captured and detained a third time and that time moved out of the city into emergency prison camps set up in gyms, cafeterias in prisons surrounding New Orleans.Race Politics of Katrina disaster capitalism were very clear there with a very common story of people being arrested in their own homes for “looting” and when presenting their id as proof of address having it thrown to the ground and being told “No you are looting, you are going in.” There was an older black guy there with several empty, ear piercings who kept describing how the cops not only did this but then proceeded to jack him of all the bling-bling, gold chains, rings etc, that he was wearing. “I can prove it I was filmed on Ricky Lake wearing all my Bling.” he kept repeating. When those resident were arrested their homes were left open to be looted very often by cops themselves. Being driven myself that third time a cop that was just just threating to “Fuck me up.” stopped by an apartment complex with several people milling around with one of them running up to the driver and saying to the driver: “There is big screen televisions inside” – “Mhhhhmmmm..” said the driver as he drove off taking me outside of the city. Making me realize that the official disaster “relief” groups together with the cops were just pillaging the City. Killing it twice, once by normalizing, continuing and protecting the Fossil Industry with its carbon emissions causing disasters such as Katrina, and killing it the second time by using the disaster of their making. Burning of the Reichstag with the Whole Planet now being the former German Parliament and taking adbantage of the result to imprison and attack those that have the least, that are the most affected. In New Orleans it was the Black, Creole, Cajun and impoverished white populations in Europe now it is the refugees and the left, the autonomous centers, climate activists, Hambach Forest Activists. This is just a beginning. The alliance formed by Bush administration with Church of Scientology is repeated by the alliances of CDU and SDP with the AfD in removing autonomous protest zones and being more and more repressive on those most affected by their Fossil Fuels policies with some of the largest coal power plants in the world continuing to operate in North Rhine Westphalia. The Climate Justice struggle is not just being fought for those that are currently being repressed or just for the ecosystems destroyed. It is fought for the future descendants of even those putting in this new reality in place. For it is just like with New Orleans police who though their legendary thick skinned arrogance, brutality and corruption were not able to see how complete and disastrous the reality that they are putting in place the same is now true of North Rhine Westphalia, and German National Government.

In the disaster prisons around New Orleans all personal property, including documents and clothing addresses and contacts, etc we were informed was incinerated as it was “contaminated” from being in the city. I remember battling really painful eye infection that I got from the dust of a destroyed city without being able to get any access to medical attention. As I came out a month later with no charges I remember hearing the right wing religious propaganda spreading at that time claiming that what took place was Gods punishment to a city know for its decadence and Debouchery that the same outsiders always loved the city for as the local population cleaned their rooms did their laundry, cooked their music and played Jazz for their entertainment.  Going after those that were dealing with and suffering from this Chaos reality the same way the Hambi4 and resistors to #RWE tried and continue to try to work on a different reality than that of fossil fuels and destructive capitalism only to be imprisoned and to continue to come under attack from helicopters, thousands of cops and tanks that like in New Orleans make sure that there is no reality outside of corporate control and who make sure that the destruction continues.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Peter

    The articles here in the blog are profound, true and interesting. I especially like the prison stories (I’m just honest. Of course I know that the imprisonments are harsh situations and people can suffer still a long time after that. So I’m sorry, if I could have hurt someone’s feelings.) It’s very important that you don’t see the Hambacher Forest conflict isolated and such articles are very suitable to make that clear. And they also serve as a great support for the (ex-)detained Hambis.

    I’m always wondering how even people close to the conflict see the Hambach Forest as an isolated wood area and are too blind to see the full dimension.
    There are many aspects the articles deal with which I didn’t see before and it’s indeed easy to connect the Hambach Forest struggle to other conflicts in the world. This “One struggle, one fight” thing bares so much truth.

    I have to admit that I think the evacuation of New Orleans and to let nobody in the area was absolutely the right decision. In an emergency situation there is no time to make individual decisions so it’s necessary in my opinion to use even violence in the process.
    It’s really important that nobody puts himself in danger and rescue teams can do their work.

    On the other hand I don’t only see parallels between the situations in New Orleans and Hambach Forest, but I think that the situation in Hambach Forest is even much worse. The barricade eviction was in my opinion a constructed emergency situation and not much has been done to try to avoid the detentions. Especially I find it very strange that the police always talks about deescalation, but then enters the forest with hundreds of cops and the use of megaphones and violence. This doesn’t follow the concept of prevention, which seems to be completely forgotten.
    And I can absolutely not understand why it needs over 50 days that there is an effect for a person who is most probably too young for such a long detention and if at all the imprisonment is still according to law the person is obviously in the wrong prison.

    It really is terrifying that emergency situations can be declared so easily and to be used by the state as a problem solver.
    And it’s not unrealistic that the state power can get completely in wrong hands.

    There really is a vicious circle: More extractionism –> more emergencies –> more state actions and more need for money –> more extractionism …

    There are more and more signs that the Nazi history is forgotten and things get worse and worse every day and we are not far away from a war or a disruption in the society. So it’s really important that the Hambach Forest conflict will end with the result “Hambi stays”. Take care.

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