The Two-Party Police State: Shocking and Extraordinary Police Violence in Wake of Katrina Neither Out of the Ordinary Nor Surprising

Five years after hurricane Katrina nearly wiped New Orleans off the map, PBS's Frontline has partnered with Pro Publica and reporters from the New Orleans Times-Picayune to produce a disturbing investigation and expose of the violence perpetrated by police against civilians in the aftermath of the disaster. Pro Publica writes, "After Katrina, New Orleans Police Shot Frequently and Asked Few Questions." From Frontline's introductory article:
Beginning with the death of Henry Glover -- a case that has resulted in the indictment of five New Orleans police officers by a federal grand jury -- Law & Disorder digs deep into a number of incidents in which police shot civilians. It raises new questions about the actions of police officers -- and their command structure -- in the aftermath of the catastrophe.
The most infamous case documents the incident on Danziger Bridge, in which police opened fire on unarmed civilians, shooting six and killing two. Apologists of the state allege that state, city and police officials were reacting to reports of looting, rape and murder, justifying the government's brutality as a reasonable response to the very breakdown of civil order. Though it would have been unconstitutional to do so, Democratic Mayor Ray Nagin stated in a radio interview at the time that he had "called for martial law in New Orleans." Governor Kathleen Blanco, also a Democrat, asserts that she "never declared martial law." However, in a press conference on September 1, 2005, she issued a clear threat to the citizens of New Orleans:
There are hundreds of law enforcement officers [including the National Guard] being deployed into New Orleans today to restore order. Looting and other lawlessness will not be tolerated. I wanted it to be strong and I wanted it to be clear. These troops know how to shoot and kill, and they are more than willing to do so if necessary and I expect they will. [Emphasis added.]
See the transcript of the Frontline documentary. Blanco got what she wanted. Some police clearly interpreted these signals as an open order to shoot civilians at will in the interests of "maintaining order," judging from their own statements. Pro Publica reports:
Federal agents are looking into allegations that high-ranking New Orleans police commanders gave orders after Hurricane Katrina authorizing officers to shoot looters.
Though the great majority of reports alleging looting, rape, murder and the breakdown of civil order to which authorities were responding at the time were nothing more than rumors or misunderstandings, there was undoubtedly a complete breakdown of civil order in New Orleans. How else can one describe a situation in which the impulsive and hysterical reactions of state, city and local authorities to sensationalist, media-driven rumor and innuendo literally led to brutal beatings and cold blooded killings of innocent or unarmed civilians by agents of the government?

Perhaps what is most disturbing about these incidents is that they really cannot be considered isolated phenomena, a result of the exceptional chaos and confusion that came in the wake of a natural disaster. In a report on the indictment of police involved in the Danziger Bridge incident from July, we read:
Four New Orleans police officers could face the death penalty after being accused of gunning down two unarmed people in the chaotic aftermath of Hurricane Katrina . . . Five former New Orleans police officers already have pleaded guilty to helping cover up the shootings . . . Prosecutors say officers fabricated witness statements, falsified reports and planted a gun in an attempt to make it appear the shootings were justified. It was a shocking example of the violence and confusion that followed the deadly hurricane.
Yet, shocking examples of such "violence and confusion" are not hard to come by in the policing regimes that have been established by Democratic-Republican party government in the United States. Consider a few examples from headlines just this month:
• Earlier this month, at a raucous block party in New York City, four police officers released a barrage of almost fifty bullets in an incident of "contagious shooting," that apparently killed one person and wounded six others, including police officers and bystanders.

• Earlier this week, as the Daily News reports, "an NYPD cop whose wife called 911 for help against a gang of thugs says he was brutally beaten by baton-wielding fellow officers who stormed his Queens home."

• In Seattle, four police officers were recently caught on video beating a mentally disabled teenager in a jaywalking incident.

• The city of Atlanta will be forced to pay nearly $5 million to the family of a 92 year old woman who was "killed in a botched 2006 drug raid . . . [the woman] was shot to death by narcotics officers conducting a "no-knock" warrant. Investigators later determined the raid was based on falsified paperwork stating that illegal drugs were present in the home." [Emphasis added.]

In Florida, "Victor Steen, a 17-year-old high school senior from West Pensacola, Florida, was murdered while riding a bicycle . . . last October 3rd. His murderer, Jerald Ard, ran him down in an automobile . . . Ard . . . veered into the wrong lane and even drove onto a sidewalk in pursuit of Victor, repeatedly attempting to shoot the teenager with a lethal weapon. After he ran down the youngster, Ard tried to cover up his crime by planting a gun on the victim. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Ard is a police officer. Nor should it be considered unusual that he will suffer no significant punishment for his act of vehicular homicide."
Falsifying reports, fabricating statements, planting evidence, the beating and murder of civilians on the street and in their homes: shocking examples of violence perpetrated against the people of the United States by agents of their government on what is basically a daily basis. This is the inevitable result of the policing regime that has been established by Democratic-Republican party government in the United States. The culture of lawlessness, lack of accountability, and non-transparency we are so familiar with from elected Democrats and Republicans infects virtually every aspect of our society and government. Tough on crime? Or just plain criminal?

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