Monday, August 29, 2011

Six Years Out--Some Facts

Katrina Pain Index 2011: Race, Gender, Poverty

By Bill Quigley and Davida Finger
August 22, 2011 "

Information Clearing House" -- Six years ago, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf coast. The impact of Katrina and government bungling continue to inflict major pain on the people left behind. It is impossible to understand what happened and what still remains without considering race, gender, and poverty. The following offer some hints of what remains.

$62 million. Amount of money HUD and the State of Louisiana agreed to pay thousands of homeowners because of racial discrimination in Louisiana’s program to disburse federal rebuilding funds following Katrina and Rita. African American homeowners were more likely than whites to have their rebuilding grants based on much lower pre-storm value of their homes rather than the higher estimated cost to rebuild them. Source: Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center.

343,829. The current population of the city of New Orleans, about 110,000 less than when Katrina hit. New Orleans is now whiter, more male and more prosperous. Source: Greater New Orleans Community Data Center.

154,000. FEMA is now reviewing the grants it gave to 154,000 people following hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. It is now demanding that some return the long ago spent funds! FEMA admits that many of the cases under review stem from mistakes made by its own agency employees. FEMA’s error rate following Katrina was 14.5 per cent. Michael Kunzelman and Ryan Foley, Associated Press.

65,423. In the New Orleans metropolitan area, there are now 65,423 fewer African American women and girls than when Katrina hit. Overall, the number of women and girls decreased since Katrina by 108,116. Source: Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

47,738. Number of vacant houses in New Orleans as of 2010. Source: GNOCDC.

3000. Over three thousand public housing apartments occupied before Katrina plus another thousand under renovation were bulldozed after Katrina. Less than ten percent, 238 families, have made it back into the apartments built on the renovated sites. Only half of the 3000+ families have even made it back to New Orleans at all. All were African American. Source: Katy Reckdahl, Times-Picayune.

75. Nearly seventy five percent of the public schools in New Orleans have become charters since Katrina. Over fifty percent of public school students in New Orleans attend public charter schools. There are now more than thirty different charter school operators in New Orleans alone. The reorganization of the public schools has created a separate but unequal tiered system of schools that steers a minority of students, including virtually all of the city’s white students, into a set of selective, higher-performing schools and most of the city’s students of color into a set of lower-performing schools.

Sources: Andrew Vanacore, Times-Picayune; Valerie Strauss, Washington Post; Institute on Race & Poverty of University of Minnesota Law School.

70. Seventy percent more people are homeless in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina. People living with HIV are estimated to be homeless at 10 times the rate of the general population, a condition amplified after Hurricane Katrina. Source: Unity for the Homeless and Times-Picayune.

59. Less than 60 percent of Louisiana’s public school students graduate from high school with their class. Among public school children with disabilities in New Orleans, the high school graduation rate is 6.8%.

Source: Education Week and Southern Poverty Law Center.

34. Thirty four percent of the children in New Orleans live in poverty; the national average is 20%. Source: Annie Casey Foundation Kids Count 2011.

11. Eleven New Orleans police officers convicted or plead guilty to federal crimes involving shootings of civilians during Hurricane Katrina aftermath. Source: Brendan McCarthy, Times-Picayune.

10. At least ten people were killed by police under questionable circumstances during days after Katrina. Source: Times-Picayune

3. A three-fold increase in heart attacks was documented in the two years after Katrina. Source: Tulane University Health Study.

Number unknown. The true impact of the BP oil spill in terms of adverse health effects is vast but unknown. Delays by the federal government in studying the spill’s physical and mental health effects hinder any ability to understand these issues with accuracy. A year after the spill, more people are reporting medical and mental health problems. Source: Campell Robertson, New York Times and National Geographic.

Bill Quigley and Davida Finger are professors at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. Bill is also Associate Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. You can reach Bill at and Davida

Saturday, August 20, 2011

As Promised, The Answer

Cross posted at B2L2

For those of you who read my last experimental post, and apparently many of you did despite its length if SiteMeter is right (I rarely check it but did for this one), I applaud your patience and curiousity.

I had posted a rather long, albeit edited speech and challenged readers to tell me who they thought had written those words. Interestingly, there were only two actual guesses in the comments section. Most guesses came via email or text message. Not sure why that was the case.

The guesses were good, with one really great joke guess thrown in: Kennedy (both John and Robert were represented), Jimmy Carter, FDR (evidently someone missed a reference to 1947 which would put old Franklin out of the running), Lyndon Johnson (a really good guess actually) and Martin Luther King. Good guesses all. The great joke guess was Ann Coulter which came in as I was writing this.

The answer: Dwight Eisenhower, from a speech called the Peace Speech delivered in the Spring of 1953 before I was born. Eisenhower: President, Republican and Five Star General. (For those who didn't read the post, it's not the military industrial complex speech, although that's a good read as well.)

All the empty brackets had originally been predominantly filled with the word Soviet. The paragraphs removed were about the post-War Soviet threat and the impending Cold War. What struck me was how many of those brackets could now have been filled with The United States. (Not to worry, I have a large piece of plexiglass to keep any rotten vegetables thrown my way from getting in my hair.)

A Republican Military President wrote those words. So for those who may not have had the patience to read them, try them over coffee this morning. You might be surprised by what you read. I have no doubt that ALL the current GOP candidates would be.

BTW, thanks for the guesses. I knew it was a long piece when I wrote it but am grateful that some of you actually took the time to read it and respond. Many thanks for that.

Oh yeah, forgot. One friend got it right within an hour of my posting it. Amazing. But only that one.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

If you found this in today's NYTimes Op-Ed section. . .

Cross posted at B2L2

. . .What would you think? Who would you expect to have written it?

Without resorting to Google, Yahoo, or your search engine of choice, read the following, then please post in the comments section who you think said this.

In the interest of transparency, anything you see in <. . .> has either been changed or removed. In some instances entire paragraphs have been removed. If you see <. . .> in a sentence, fill in that blank with your choice of what makes sense to you within that sentence. If you see the same bracket/dot/bracket between paragraphs it means some paragraphs have been removed. (I will explain in two days why I did that, although some of you will probably figure it out. In some cases the bracket will look different i.e.{ or } since I just figured out that the other interferes with the html cuz I'm an html idiot.)

I'm curious what response this this will get. Please read it in its entirety before resorting to compliments or insults in the comments section, either here or on Facebook. Thank you for your indulgence of me in this matter.

{This year} the free world weighs one question above all others: the chance for a just peace for all peoples.

To weigh this chance is to summon instantly to mind another recent moment of great decision. . . . . The hope of all just men in that moment too was a just and lasting peace.

The 8 years that have passed have seen that hope waver, grow dim, and almost die. And the shadow of fear again has darkly lengthened across the world.

Today the hope of free men remains stubborn and brave, but it is sternly disciplined by experience. It shuns not only all crude counsel of despair but also the self-deceit of easy illusion.
It weighs the chance for peace with sure, clear knowledge of what happened to the vain hope of <2003>.

. . . .{Our} people<> shared the joyous prospect of building, in honor of their dead, the only fitting monument-an age of just peace. All these war weary peoples shared too this concrete, decent purpose: to guard vigilantly against the domination ever again of any part of the world by a single, unbridled aggressive power.

This common purpose lasted an instant and perished. The nations of the world divided to follow two distinct roads.

<. . . . . . . .>

The way chosen by the United States was plainly marked by a few clear precepts, which govern its conduct in world affairs.

First: No people on earth can be held, as a people, to be an enemy, for all humanity shares the common hunger for peace and fellowship and justice.

Second: No nation’s security and well-being can be lastingly achieved in isolation but only in effective cooperation with fellow nations.

Third: Any nation’s right to a form of government and an economic system of its own choosing is inalienable.

Fourth: Any nation’s attempt to dictate to other nations their form of government is indefensible.

And fifth: A nation’s hope of lasting peace cannot be firmly based upon any race in armaments but rather upon just relations and honest understanding with all other nations.

In the light of these principles the citizens of the United States defined the way they proposed to follow, <. . .> toward true peace.

This way was faithful to the spirit that inspired the United Nations: to prohibit strife, to relieve tensions, to banish fears. This way was to control and to reduce armaments. This way was to
allow all nations to devote their energies and resources to the great and good tasks of healing <. . .> war’s wounds, of clothing and feeding and housing the needy, of perfecting a just political life, of enjoying the fruits of their own free toil.

The <. . .> government held a vastly different vision of the future.

In the world of its design, security was to be found, not in mutual trust and mutual aid but in force: huge armies, subversion, rule of neighbor nations. The goal was power superiority at all cost. Security was to be sought by denying it to all others.

The result has been tragic for the world and, for the <. . . .>, it has also been ironic.

The amassing of <. . . .> power alerted free nations to a new danger of aggression. It compelled them in self-defense to spend unprecedented money and energy for armaments. It forced them to develop weapons of war now capable of inflicting instant and terrible punishment upon any aggressor.

It instilled in the free nations--and let none doubt this--the unshakable conviction that, as long as there persists a threat to freedom, they must, at any cost, remain armed, strong, and ready for the risk of war.

It inspired them--and let none doubt this--to attain a unity of purpose and will beyond the power of propaganda or pressure to break, now or ever.

<. . . .>

The free nations, most solemnly and repeatedly, have assured the <. . . .> that their firm association has never had any aggressive purpose whatsoever. <. . . .> leaders, however, have seemed to persuade themselves, or tried to persuade their people, otherwise.

And so it has come to pass that the <. . . .> itself has shared and suffered the very fears it has fostered in the rest of the world.

This has been the way of life forged by 8 years of fear and force.

What can the world, or any nation in it, hope for if no turning is found on this dread road?

The worst to be feared and the best to be expected can be simply stated.

The worst is atomic war.

The best would be this: a life of perpetual fear and tension; a burden of arms draining the wealth and the labor of all peoples; a wasting of strength that defies the American system <. . . .> or any system to achieve true abundance and happiness for the peoples of this earth. Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone.

It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.

It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.

It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.

We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat.

We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

This, I repeat, is the best way of life to be found on the road the world has been taking.

This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.

These plain and cruel truths define the peril and point the hope that comes with this .

This is one of those times in the affairs of nations when the gravest choices must be made, if there is to be a turning toward a just and lasting peace.

It is a moment that calls upon the governments of the world to speak their intentions with simplicity and with honesty.

It calls upon them to answer the question that stirs the hearts of all sane men: is there no other way the world may live?

<. . . .>

We welcome every honest act of peace.

We care nothing for mere rhetoric.

We are only for sincerity of peaceful purpose attested by deeds. The opportunities for such deeds are many. The performance of a great number of them waits upon no complex protocol but upon the simple will to do them. Even a few such clear and specific acts, such as <. . . .>, would be impressive signs of sincere intent. They would carry a power of persuasion not to be matched by any amount of oratory.

This we do know: a world that begins to witness the rebirth of trust among nations can find its way to a peace that is neither partial nor punitive.

With all who will work in good faith toward such a peace, we are ready, with renewed resolve, to strive to redeem the near-lost hopes of our day.

<. . . .>

None of these issues, great or small, is insoluble--given only the will to respect the rights of all nations.

Again we say: the United States is ready to assume its just part.

We have already done all within our power to speed conclusion of <. . . .>, which will free that country from economic exploitation and from occupation by foreign troops.

<. . . .>

As progress in all these areas strengthens world trust, we could proceed concurrently with the next great work--the reduction of the burden of armaments now weighing upon the world. To this end we would welcome and enter into the most solemn agreements. These could properly include:

1. The limitation, by absolute numbers or by an agreed international ratio, of the sizes of the military and security forces of all nations.

2. A commitment by all nations to set an agreed limit upon that proportion of total production of certain strategic materials to be devoted to military purposes.

3. International control of atomic energy to promote its use for peaceful purposes only and to insure the prohibition of atomic weapons.

4. A limitation or prohibition of other categories of weapons of great destructiveness.

5. The enforcement of all these agreed limitations and prohibitions by adequate safeguards, including a practical system of inspection under the United Nations.

The details of such disarmament programs are manifestly critical and complex. Neither the United States nor any other nation can properly claim to possess a perfect, immutable formula.

But the formula matters less than the faith--the good faith without which no formula can work justly and effectively.

The fruit of success in all these tasks would present the world with the greatest task, and the greatest opportunity, of all. It is this: the dedication of the energies, the resources, and the imaginations of all peaceful nations to a new kind of war. This would be a declared total war, not upon any human enemy but upon the brute forces of poverty and need. The peace we seek, rounded upon decent trust and cooperative effort among nations, can be fortified, not by weapons of war but by wheat and by cotton, by milk and by wool, by meat and by timber and by rice. These are words that translate into every language on earth. These are needs that challenge this world in arms.

This idea of a just and peaceful world is not new or strange to us. It inspired the people of the United States to initiate the European Recovery Program in 1947. That program was prepared to treat, with like and equal concern, the needs of Eastern and Western Europe.

<. . . .>

The monuments to this new kind of war would be these: roads and schools, hospitals and homes, food and health.

We are ready, in short, to dedicate our strength to serving the needs, rather than the fears, of the world.

<. . . .>

There is, before all peoples, a precious chance to turn the black tide of events. If we failed to strive to seize this chance, the judgment of future ages would be harsh and just.

If we strive but fail and the world remains armed against itself, it at least need be divided no longer in its clear knowledge of who has condemned humankind to this fate.

<. . . .>

Monday, August 15, 2011

Somewhere an Ad Man is Giggling over the Pogues

Okay, so we all love the Pogues. Tunes that get stuck in our heads and have us bopping around all day wanting to drink with friends and sing loudly. But somewhere an Ad Man is laughing.

I've been told that I "tivo" out commercials when watching TV and in a way I do. I know I don't want a new car, nor do I care what the latest battery powered hand soap dispenser is (nevermind I think that's absurd), so in general I do my to do list til the show I'm watching comes back on. However this week I noticed a car commercial. It was the music. Then I saw it again, and laughed, laughed hard and now laugh every time I see it.

It's a Suburu commercial showing a hockey mom with four adorable red headed hockey playing boys in the back all in Kelly Green. Mom does a great job cheering from the stands, the boys give it all they got, fall asleep on the way home as she smiles indulgently into the rearview mirror. Good job, Suburu. Really. It's a good commercial.

Here's the rub:
The Pogues song playing in the background that everyone loves is If I Should Fall from Grace with God. It's a high energy song about death and burial. Yeah. Really. The death and burial preferences, along with a lovely verse about leaving noble warrior dead ancestors in their places of burial. I know. But really, it's a great song.

So why is the Ad Man and your humble writer laughing? Because the commercial is all about the vehicle's safety. I don't think Suburu knows how funny it is to have a "top rated safety" plug tacked on to the end of that song.

For your edification here is the video, followed by the lyrics, followed by the really cute car safety commercial. Now seriously, "No doctor can relieve me" and "The angels won't receive me" is truly funny in this context. Forget about the murderous ghost and the corpse laying on top of ya! Someone slipped something over the folks at the ad agency. Enjoy!

If I should fall from grace with god
Where no doctor can relieve me
If Im buried neath the sod
But the angels wont receive me

Let me go, boys
Let me go, boys
Let me go down in the mud
Where the rivers all run dry

This land was always ours
Was the proud land of our fathers
It belongs to us and them
Not to any of the others

Let them go, boys
Let them go, boys
Let them go down in the mud
Where the rivers all run dry

Bury me at sea
Where no murdered ghost can haunt me
If I rock upon the waves
Then no corpse can lie upon me

Its coming up three, boys
Keeps coming up three, boys
Let them go down in the mud
Where the rivers all run dry

If I should fall from grace with god
Where no doctor can relieve me
If Im buried neath the sod
But the angels wont receive me

Let me go, boys
Let me go, boys
Let me go down in the mud
Where the rivers all run dry

Now, sing it all day long! I know you will.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Why We're Silent in the Carrot Patch

Cross posted at Bark Bugs Leaves and Lizards

"This sends a powerful, powerful message, and that is that public officials, especially law enforcement officers will be held accountable for their acts. The citizens of this country should not have to fear the people called upon to protect them."
~US Attorney Jim Letten, 8.5.11 addressing the verdicts in the Danziger Bridge trial

On March 6, 2011 this happened:

Ten or so minutes later and one block down, this happened:

One night a while back, I sat talking with two friends. We had some beers, we talked about everything under the sun. Somehow we wound up discussing police. POH-leece. I explained that as a child I was told that if ever something happened, if I got lost, if someone weird approached me, even if I was just plain scared for no apparent reason, that I should look for a policeman and he'd save me. St. Michael in a blue uniform and peaked cap. I knew my address, parents' names, phone numbers. Get hold of that guy in blue and you're gonna be okay.

I went on for some time about this, in my reverie not noticing that my friends remained silent. I lit a cigarette and looked at them. They were looking at each other askance. I was bewildered, replaying my conversation in my head, wondering what I'd said. Was I not clear? Had I said something off the wall, hell I am prone to that. Had I said something to offend them?

Finally both of them looked at me and said in unison, “WE were NEVER taught that!” Both of these people are native New Orleanians. Both of these people are black. They explained clearly that they were certainly not taught that, and that in fact, avoidance of police was the best approach as police could not necessarily be trusted. They were stunned by what I'd said.

My statement had made very clear the divide in our realities in America during those decades just past the Civil Rights era. Police were never a safe haven for these friends. I have to wonder if they saw cops walking a beat, some guy with a Polish or Irish last name. “Officer Krupke. . . .. .” Probably not, but if they did they certainly didn't see him as someone to turn to in time of need, someone on the side of the angels. Not happening for these friends, and they are much younger than I. As Bunny Colvin says in a conversation with Carver in the Wire (Season 3 I think, late episode), once it became a war on drugs, a war, their jobs were no longer POH-leece, their jobs were to be warriors and they acted as such. The neighborhoods no longer were places to be protected and served, they became occupied territories. My experience and my friends' were very different. I had a different skin color and a different zip code.

Spring forward a few decades. Nixon's war on drugs has lasted all these years. No actual dent has been made in terms of stemming the flow of drugs in this expensive "war", nor in my opinion will it ever be an effective program for anything other than bogging down the court system, filling the jails, making people with drug charges unemployable and draining the tax coffers. The only people making out are the cartels, big time dealers and the prison system (especially the privatized institutions—don't get me started on that). We now have generations of steroid enhanced cops who come out of the Academy with their shiny new badges and a “them vs. us” mentality. Knock some heads. Put on kevlar. Riot shields look awesome. Helmets and pepper spray and commando attire are the stuff of heroic macho dreams. We're heading for the front, boys, and if we make it we'll get a pension, but we gotta get “them.” We gotta be the cowboys. Christ, they all think they're Wyatt Earp, who was not a hero really in any measure. He was a vigilante, with rigid ideas and a million get rich quick schemes in his head. Really. We don't need Wyatt in our streets.

Last March I wrote about what happened during the Eris parade. I saw it with my own eyes. I had not seen violence like it since the sixties' anti-war protests. Clubs swinging. Cuss word slinging. Heads being bashed. Pepper spray being dispersed in clouds. Arrests that looked like they were made out of spite not probable cause. Cops that looked like they were enjoying the power. Cops waiting til the parade was almost at its end point, where it would have dispersed naturally in a quiet end of the Marigny/Bywater, to do all this. Cops who seemed to have a major chip on their shoulders. I pulled four kids out of the street that night. Two of them had been bashed badly. Meanwhile, two blocks down, the police, yeah those guys I was told were a safe haven in a storm, were saying, “Don't look back, all I want to see is backs, keep going” as they walked in a line pepper spraying the paraders. They were the storm.

What was the big crime? No permit. Okay. I'll give ya that. No permit. Oh yeah and that brick that was allegedly tossed at and hit a cop, who has yet to be named. (If anything they blew a prime PR moment by not trotting out the alleged injured cop, with bandages on his/her head in a wheelchair looking pitiful. If they'd done that, the public would have instantly gone to their corner in this. But they didn't. Which just makes ya flat out wonder if. . . . )

So where's all this leading?

When I saw what was happening I hit Facebook, Twitter (which I abhor) and started writing here about what I'd seen. I actively solicited photos, videos, first hand accounts. I published whatever I was sent including censurious comments about property and car damage alleged to have happened. If that happened, and I'm not doubting the veracity of the commenters, then the ones responsible should have been surgically removed and arrested. I am not an anarchist, nor am I interested in protecting vandals. Arrest those folks. For real. For sure. Fo' tru. But don't start indiscriminately bashing heads of folks that had nothing to do with all that. Okay, wait. They were out there in fairy wings with a brass band without a permit. Ticket worthy maybe. Billy club warranted? Not on your life.

I was upset by what I'd seen. I was angry. So I wrote about it. here and here. Then I kept writing about it. (I think there are two more pieces after the two linked above.)

A couple weeks later I heard through the artist grapevine that is very accurate and fast, that police were looking for me at the local store. I got worried. I was told to be worried by some folks who know what the score is better than I. I was told they hadn't liked what I'd written and the speed with which I'd gotten the information out. I mentioned going up to the cop shop to tell them they were looking for me and answer their questions. After all, I wasn't involved, had done nothing wrong, what did I have to be worried about by answering their questions? Three lawyers who know their way around said, NO WAY. So I didn't. Did I mention I live in the Fifth District? One very dear friend said, “Write it up, write it up NOW.” A lawyer I talked to said, “No way. Don't say a word for a bit. Just sit tight.” So I did that. I trust both of them but the lawyer's word meant more at that moment.

So for months I went the right way down one way streets on my bicycle worried that I didn't have a light. I was careful not to weave if I'd had a few at the local bar. I checked outside my house to see if anything hinky was going on. I looked down the alley when retrieving my mail. I double checked if the dog barked. I felt like I was under siege. Nothing happened. I got my story out to the people who could protect me, made sure that everyone knew who to call should I be hauled in for no apparent reason. Had friends checking on my having made it home. I was invited to parties and barbecues. I didn't go. I was afraid that perhaps I'd draw the police to that place. I looked in the mirror and realized that I was not John Dillinger and drank myself into the courage to show up for a fundraiser for the legal fees of those arrested that night. The entire night I was paranoid. Probably stupid. Narcissistic? Perhaps. A leftover of the sixties when we were all certain everyone knew we were tripping? Possibly. Nevertheless, the stress level was beyond what a citizen reporting what was seen, and in fact documented, should feel.

I lived in an Occupied Territory. Yup. That was how I felt for months living in the Fifth District of New Orleans.

Shortly the commander was replaced. Promoted I heard. A couple weeks ago she was added to the list of commanders being investigated. I see a POH-leece and know by virtue of my color and age that if I walk up to them reasonably sober and tell them I have a problem with a prowler and I'm afraid to go home alone that they'll accompany me—unless they're having a bad night and decide to haul me in for public intoxication. Therein lies the problem. I'm not sure which guy I'll be talking to, the guy who will help me or the guy with a chip on his shoulder. Most of the rank and file are okay guys who actually give a shit. But then there are the others. The Occupiers. The ones who don't care if the street lights are out, who hold grudges against vocal neighbors, who point air finger guns (think air guitar) at citizens who dare to ask them to turn down the volume on their partying. The ones who see themselves as the good guys and the rest of us, white or black, young or old, as the “other,” the enemy.

This is not an occupied sector. It's a neighborhood. A neighborhood with people who own, rent, pay their taxes, get their brake tags re-upped, cut their grass. Who lock their bikes, sit on their stoops and want to see their police in the streets knowing who they are. The kind of cops that as a five year old I was told to look up to, to go find if I needed help, who know that Miss Janie is alone and is ninety and might need to be checked on sometimes. Who don't view every black person (Male, 6 ft, white tshirt, jeans) as a gun carrying drug dealer when he might be Miss Ellie's boy, and she's a “bonified colored lady of the old school” so you know that young 'un was brought up right, nevermind he's carrying a brass instrument next to his stellar report card rather than a Glock. If you walked that beat, Officer Krupke, you'd know the people and the kids in the neighborhood and you could make a difference.

And the difference wouldn't be how much paranoia and fear you could engender. That is the attitude of an occupier, not a police.

I learned, as I always do from my friends, what it's like to feel like the “other.” I can never possibly know their experience. I wouldn't presume to say I could. But a few months of that kind of fear, fear of the very people I was told to turn to in times of trouble, made me wonder what it's like to live an entire life in that mode.

I wonder too what toll it takes on the Occupiers. You officers are supposed to be here for us. We're not all your enemies.

Some of you are decent, caring people who chose this career in order to serve your city and your fellow citizens. You're out there every day, dealing with stuff the rest of us don't have to carry into our dreams at night. We understand that and are grateful that you stepped up so we don't have to have those nightmares. Seeing what you've seen, you probably have some constructive ideas that the rest of us haven't thought of in terms of keeping young black men from filling the jails or worse, filling the streets with their blood. An idea that doesn't necessarily involve handcuffs and billy clubs. You are the guys that see the day to day problems of poverty and unemployment. You must have some insights that can help us get a start on fixing the problems, instead of your adding to them with fear and divisiveness. That's gotta be more important than a bunch of folks parading through the streets during Mardi Gras with babies on their hips and fairy wings on their backs and no permit in their pocket?

What made that warrant such a violent response from the officers out there who continue to view all of us as the enemy? Why would you officers want people like me to be afraid of you? Afraid to call you in an emergency, afraid you might haul me in rather than go after the guy who just tried to get in my front door? Is that really your goal? Fear? Most of those arrested were charged and are awaiting court dates right now. No doubt if fear is your goal, you've reached it.

Let's lock up the guys spilling young people's blood in the streets. I am not saying let criminals go. I am saying that by tempering your responses and treating us like fellow citizens you can put an old one like me into a position where I can again make my case for calling you in times of need. Let's do that. It's what we must do to have civilization.

This shouldn't be a war, it should be a cooperative venture. And from where I'm sitting, decades of “us vs. them” has turned the urban landscape into the occupier's patch of carrots and you view us as the annoying rabbits in that patch. And some of us are afraid you might have set a trap or loaded your rabbit gun. Wouldn't you rather we called you over to our stoop to have a cup of coffee and admire our geraniums?