According to an article in The Nation, during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, some residents of a mostly white neighborhood in New Orleans called Algiers Point decided to protect their homes from looters. Okay, that sounds reasonable, right? They even claim "The police said, If they're breaking in your property do what you gotta do and leave them [the bodies] on the side of the road."
Okay, fine, I can understand that too, under the circumstances. But these men decided to interpret "breaking in your property" to mean "walking down the street within a block or two." Only one of the incidents reported mentions someone trying to get into a locked and shuttered building -- a grocery store -- and the way it's written, it could easily have been someone trying to see if there was anyone inside who'd sell them something. It might've been a looter, sure, but we don't know for sure.
And there are a number of very clear cases of people being shot just for being Black and nearby, because the vigilantes were also interpreting "looter" to mean "any Black man within gun range." Here's the account of a woman who spoke anonymously to the reporter:
Some of the gunmen prowling Algiers Point were out to wage a race war, says one woman whose uncle and two cousins joined the cause. A former New Orleanian, this source spoke to me anonymously because she fears her relatives could be prosecuted for their crimes. "My uncle was very excited that it was a free-for-all--white against black--that he could participate in," says the woman. "For him, the opportunity to hunt black people was a joy."
"They didn't want any of the 'ghetto niggers' coming over" from the east side of the river, she says, adding that her relatives viewed African-Americans who wandered into Algiers Point as "fair game." One of her cousins, a young man in his 20s, sent an e-mail to her and several other family members describing his adventures with the militia. He had attached a photo in which he posed next to an African-American man who'd been fatally shot. The tone of the e-mail, she says, was "gleeful"--her cousin was happy that "they were shooting niggers."
So it's not quite accurate to say that these were simply people determined to protect their property.
Three of the shooting victims, Donnell Herrington -- who was shot in the neck and would've died if he hadn't made it to a hospital in time -- and his friends Marcel Alexander and Chris Collins, were walking by Algiers Point on their way to the Algiers Point Ferry. The National Guard had "designated the Algiers Point ferry landing an official evacuation site. Rescuers from the Coast Guard and other agencies brought flood victims to the ferry terminal, where soldiers loaded them onto buses headed for Texas." So these three men were headed to a bona fide evacuation site, run by the National Guard and the Coast Guard, hoping to be evacuated. And for the crime of heading for an official evacuation site, all three were shot and Herrington nearly died.
The police were in disarray during the flooding and couldn't do anything about the various crimes being committed in the area. But even now, when there are multiple video tapes of members of the Algiers Point "militia" bragging about shooting people, and describing the circumstances of their having done so (most of which don't even come close to resembling active looting) the police still don't seem to have any interest at all in pursuing these shootings. Or if they are, they're keeping it a tight secret.
The article is long but it's definitely worth a read. Anyone who thinks these attitudes are going to vanish into the ether when a Black family enters the White House next month needs to think long and hard about reality.
PS -- you know, I don't even have an appropriate icon for this. The snarky "Hey Stupid People!" type icons I usually use for this sort of post just... no. I don't feel snarky, I feel outraged and appalled.