Sound & Fury: DIY hardcore punk, radical politics, and grassroots activism.

Sound & Fury: DIY hardcore punk, radical politics, and grassroots activism.

The South is an interesting place. I’ve spent the past few weeks down here in Florida mostly relaxing and taking a vacation from Reno and all of the stuff going on. It has been a good relaxing holiday filled with plenty of good vegan ( eats and sleeping in every morning. Being here on the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico, I can’t stop thinking about the hurricanes that have wrecked and no doubt will continue to destroy buildings and towns and communities here along the Gulf. So many lives were ruined in New Orleans, Louisiana when hurricane Katrina struck, and even more lives were lost in the aftermath when governments failed to come to their rescue. Communities are left destroyed in ruin today. I wonder if the government’s reaction to the hurricane would have been the same if Katrina had struck Miami or Virginia or New York City. Would white middle and upper-class neighborhoods been left to ruin the same as the poor non-white communities have been left to rot?

Rich property developers continue to put millions of dollars into high rise condominiums along the gulf coast as global temperatures rise and hurricanes will continue to become more and more powerful. Thousands of people are in need of shelter, food, and other aid in NOLA.

Call For Human Rights For Katrina Displaced

by Michael Steinberg Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2006 at 3:24 PM

The director of the US Human Rights Network called for UN Principles on Displaced Persons to be applied to people displaced by last years hurricanes.

New Orleans, October 16 – Ajamu Baraka, director of the US Human Rights Network, called for the United Nations Principles on Displaced Persons to be applied to people still scattered from their homes in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Baraka, a former member of Amnesty International USA, left that organization to help found the Atlanta-based Human Rights Network. He spoke at Tulane University in New Orleans on Tuesday evening. The title of Baraka’s talk was “Katrina: The Necessity For a Human Rights Network in the US.” The US Human Rights Network is made up of over 200 member organizations, including the ACLU of Lousiana and New Orleans’ Peoples Hurricane Relief Fund. In his talk Baraka intitially traced the origin of the modern ideals of humans rights, in response to the atrocities of World War II, as part of the birth of the United Nations. “There was a desire to put in place a framework for human rights, to prevent atrocities in the future,” he stated.

The UN Human Rights Commission developed the ideas that people had rights that nations had to respect and protect, and that when they didn’t, the international community had a right to step in to correct the situation. Eventually seven binding human rights documents evolved. The earlier ones spelled out political, civil, cultural and economic rights. Later documents dealt with conventions against torture, against discrimination against women, and for the rights of children. These documents provide the framework for the UN’s human rights principles.

The US, Baraka pointed out, signed and ratified only three of these seven documents, claiming that US human rights were protected by its constitution. “But does the US Constitution provide us with the rights to human dignity, to housing, education, food and healthcare?” he asked the audience. The answer was a resounding no. Baraka went on to discuss how this gap between “US guarantees and international norms of human rights” has impacted people from the Gulf Coast displaced by last years hurricanes. For this part of his presentation he focused on the UN’s Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.
The UN definition of internally displaced persons includes “persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obligated to flee or leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid … natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized State border.”
Baraka detailed many of the 29 guiding principles. For example, Principle 3 states, “National authorities have the primary duty and responsibility to provide protection and humanitarian assistance to internally displaced persons within their jurisdiction.”
As he explained these principles, Baraka also pointed out numerous instances where hurricane victims’ rights were instead violated by the federal government. “The principles say all peoples rights have to be protected,” he said. “But the government picked up illegal aliens [for deportation]. “The vast majority of displaced persons in the Katrina crisis were African Americans, and most of them were women. The government was supposed to put policies in effect to address their civil, political and cultural rights. Didn’t happen. “The government is supposed to provide aid through every phase of displacement, not cut off housing after nine months,” as FEMA did. “These people are supposed to be provided aid until they return to their homes or resettle,” Barak said.
In addition, the government can’t discriminate against displaced people in providing aid, according to Principle 4. But “the vast majority of displaced people in this situation were renters,” Baraka said. “The government can’t discriminate against them because they are non-property owners. It’s responsible for providing assistance. This hasn’t happened.
“The government also has a responsibility to provide conditions to prevent disasters from happening, and to prevent unnecessary loss of life” Baraka said. But before Katrina struck “the government knew the levees in New Orleans couldn’t withstand a Category 3 hurricane or worse. There was an inadequate evacuation plan. The government knew 100,000 people in New Orleans would need public transportation to evacuate. And there was no protection for the rights of Latinos. “The principles say families should stay united. The government systematically broke up families. No mechanisms were put in place during the [mayoral] elections in New Orleans to protect displaced persons civil and political rights and let them participate. The right to be involved in the decision making process for recovery hasn’t happened for internally displaced persons from New Orleans. “The right to return to their communities has been violated. The Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans looks like Katrina hit the week before. Why weren’t sufficient resources allocated?”

The US Human Rights Network is campaigning to raise awareness about the existence of these rights and their violation, and to organize people to achieve them. “We are determined to fight out of a confirm commitment to destroy all forms and systems of domination,” Ajamu Baraka asserted. “We have to be prepared to struggle for justice, to struggle to guarantee that the human rights network survives.”

Baraka quoted this statement from the Peoples Hurricane Relief Fund: “The people of New Orleans will not go quietly into the night, becoming the homeless of countless other cities while our own homes are razed to make way for mansions, condos and casinos. We will join together to defend our claim and we will rebuild our home in the image of our own dreams.”

“We will struggle to survive,” Baraka concluded, “to build a new world and a new New Orleans.”