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White vigilantes shot at Blacks on sight

By | Last updated: Jan 7, 2009 - 5:46:00 PM

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Demands for probe of White vigilante shootings in New Orleans enclave growing


'The officers came to the emergency room but did not take any statement from me. They didn't try to help and I believe they gave these White folks an unwritten license to do what they did in the name of protecting their neighborhood.'
( - Although blood was flowing out of a hole in his throat, Donnell Herrington did not yet comprehend what had just happened to him.

One minute he was attempting to flee storm-torn New Orleans through a predominately White neighborhood, the next minute he found himself the target of an onslaught of bullets at the hands of a White group of Algiers Point vigilantes who declared “open season” on Black people in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

“The White guy who shot me came out of nowhere because I didn’t see him initially. But I heard a loud blast and a bullet struck me so hard that it lifted me off my feet,” said Mr. Herrington to The Final Call via telephone on Dec. 29.

Mr. Herrington wants the criminals locked up for life and grassroots organizations are calling for federal, state and local investigations into his case and others who were reportedly victims of shootings. To date no arrests have been made.

“I saw blood running down my shoulder from my neck. My vision was blurred at that point and I thought I was going to die,” said Mr. Herrington, a 32-year-old Black male. “At times I get angry because I feel like these White boys got away with this when they shouldn’t have. On the real, if I would have had my gun on me at the time, it would have been a straight up shoot out. It would have been a different story.”

After being hit with the initial shotgun blast, Mr. Herrington described how he staggered to his feet only to be shot a second time by the gunman in the back. His younger cousin, Marcel Alexander, was also hit by buckshots while trying to help Mr. Herrington.

“I saw Donnell bleeding and I tried to pick him up but then they shot me,” said Mr. Alexander, 20, to The Final Call. “My arm was bleeding and I broke it after falling down to the ground. It’s still broke today. I never hung out in that area because I knew those White folks were racist. Now I really know it.”

“Marcel was staring at me with his mouth open because he couldn’t believe I was bleeding like that. After I got hit the second time, I figured that the White guy was going to walk up on me and just finish me off at point blank,” recounted Mr. Herrington.

“It’s unconscionable that three years would pass without any investigation into these crimes. This is another example of Louisiana officials not taking seriously their responsibility to protect Louisiana’s Black citizens,” said internet activist James Rucker to The Final Call.

Mr. Rucker, co-founder of Color of Change, is leading a letter writing campaign via the group’s website to “call on all concerned citizens to demand an investigation by the city, state and federal governments. We have an opportunity to send a message to Louisiana
that, once again, the world won’t stand by as Black citizens aren’t afforded equal protection by the law.”

Report sheds light on hidden race war

According to an 18-month investigation by The Nation magazine, eyewitnesses say at least 11 people were shot by vigilantes in Algiers Point. In each case the targets were Black men, while the shooters were said to be White residents. The victims have not been identified nor is it known if they are still alive due to non-existent probing by local law enforcement.

“I have been saying this was going on since Katrina but nobody took it seriously,” said activist Malik Rahim, 61, of Common Ground, a community-based relief and advocacy group that formed days after Katrina hit in 2005. “Honestly it’s messed up that nobody really has been trying to look into this after all these years. Nothing was done by our own media outlets to bring this to light. It hurts because people are dead.”

The Nation also reported that one shooting victim, Henry Glover, was found charred and burned in a scorched sedan. Eyewitnesses reportedly said New Orleans police allowed Mr. Glover to bleed to death while savagely beating the man who tried to save him, then covered up and destroyed evidence. The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute sued for Mr. Glover’s autopsy records.

Mr. Rahim, who lives in Algiers Point, said, “I believe these White vigilantes saw Katrina as an opportunity to wipe out the Black community. I couldn’t even walk down my neighborhood because it would have been a gunfight. The Whites were calling us all kinds of racial slurs and threatened to burn down my house. I found Black dead bodies everywhere.”

A New Orleans Police Department press release disseminated on Dec. 24 stated that NOPD Superintendent Warren Riley “is currently looking into the allegations, and asked if anyone has substantial information relative to any incidents of this type to call the New Orleans Police Department Bureau of Investigations.”

Mr. Herrington told The Final Call that “when I was taken to the hospital, the doctors called in officers from the Algiers area to look into it. The officers came to the emergency room but did not take any statement from me. They didn’t try to help and I believe they gave these White folks an unwritten license to do what they did in the name of protecting their neighborhood.”

But Supt. Riley claims the New Orleans Police Dept. was unaware of the violence and that his department “did not receive any complaints or information to substantiate any of the allegations of racial conflicts or vigilante type crimes in the City of New Orleans including the Algiers Point on the west bank of the City.”

Color of Change is urging Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, and the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the Algiers Point attacks. Rep. John Conyers, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, has responded to the allegations.

“I am deeply disturbed by the reported incidents in Algiers Point, Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina,” said Mr. Conyers (D-Mich), in a statement. “Algiers Point residents allegedly shot randomly at African Americans who had fled to the area escaping the effects of the storm. Several injuries and deaths were reported. I am particularly concerned about accounts that local police fueled, rather than extinguished, the violence.”

The Nation report included interviews with police officers, forensic pathologists, firefighters, historians, medical doctors and private citizens, and a study of more than 800 autopsies and stacks of state death records. “What emerged was a disturbing picture of New Orleans in the days after the storm, when the city fractured along racial fault lines as its government collapsed,” wrote reporter A.C. Thompson for The Nation.

‘If it moved, you shot it’

The attack on Mr. Herington and Mr. Alexander took place on September 1, 2005, three days after floodwaters deluged New Orleans causing thousands of deaths and thousands more to evacuate. Prior to the Algiers Point encounter, Mr. Herrington was focused on securing his grandparents, who had serious medical conditions.

“There were relief helicopters hovering over the communities but they were not picking people up. So we had to get some boats and get my grandparents to the interstate for safety,” said Mr. Herrington. “They ended up sleeping on the bridge before they were eventually picked up and taken to safety.”

With his relatives secure, Mr. Herrington focused on getting himself out of the area since his home was completely destroyed. He, his cousin and close friend Chris Collins stayed with some neighbors with scarce food and water. They got word that people were being evacuated on buses at the Algiers Point ferry terminal.

The threesome headed on foot in hopes of catching a bus but would never make it due to attacks from White gunmen. “We were not looting. There was no big, huge gang of Black people with us, so the only reason I see for them doing this is just racism. I didn’t live in the times of slavery, Dr. King or Malcolm X, but this moment made me remember what was done to our people.”

The Algiers Point area is predominately White on one side of the main avenue and the other side is mostly Black. The area was able to survive Katrina’s impact with most homes and businesses intact. News spread quickly among frightened flood survivors that the area was dry, so people started heading towards the west bank. The Algiers Point ferry became an official evacuation site for the Coast Guard, with flood victims boarding buses for Houston, Texas.

“I was one of those that got to the ferry to board a bus,” said Katrina Wallace, who now resides in Houston. “But other than that, you wouldn’t have caught me dead going near that area because we always felt those White folks would do something to us. I don’t care what people say, racism is alive and well. This is evidence. Those folks play for keeps in Algiers.”

Nathan Roper, a White man, told The Nation that many of his comrades were armed with “handguns, rifles and shotguns” and that he personally carried “a .38 in my waistband and a little Uzi. I know of at least three people who got shot. I know one was dead ’cause he was on the side of the road.”

In heavily circulated videos on the Internet, many of the Whites can be seen bragging about the shootings. Wayne Janak, a White resident of Algiers Point, was recorded saying, it “was like pheasant season in South Dakota. If it moved, you shot it. I’m no longer a Yankee. I earned my wings.”

“This type of racism is so prevalent that we as people in New Orleans rarely react to it because we are so used to it,” said Kevin Griffin, of the New Orleans-based group 2-Cents. “I had heard about these shootings going on. Now, these people are in videos bragging. Something must be done.”

‘I will never be the same’

After being hit by bullets the second time, Mr. Herrington managed to gather himself and trot away holding his bloody neck wound while he said the shooters yelled, “Get him! Get that ni---er! We gonna shoot you n---er!”

Mr. Alexander and Mr. Collins fled in opposite directions down a nearby alley, only to get further hunted down by three other armed Whites in a SUV.

“We ducked off into a nearby alley and they shot me in my leg. I was thinking what the hell is going on? Why are they doing this?” said Mr. Alexander. “One of them pulled their gun out to my face and charged us with looting their homes. They threatened our lives and I figured we were dead.”

Mr. Alexander further described how “there were other Black people witnessing, but were being threatened too. I was bleeding like crazy and the only reason they let us go was because they saw Chris’ diabetic machine in his backpack. But I was angry.”

Eventually all three were able to evacuate to Houston by riding with some friends and would not return to New Orleans until almost a year later.

“This has messed up my thinking about White people definitely. I will never be the same,” said Mr. Herrington. “I don’t see them the same because they didn’t have a reason to do this. I want them caught and locked up for life.”

Mr. Herrington has lost his grandfather and one of his legs within the last few years as well. He was working and got hit in the leg with a stray bullet from a crossfire at a truck stop. His leg had to be amputated.

“Life has been rough with all of this going on. With Katrina, the shooting, my grandfather, my leg and then my seven-year-old daughter is impacted, too,” said Mr. Herrington, who is currently producing music.

Mr. Alexander wants justice as well. “These White folks getting away with attempted murder. I want a full investigation and for all of them to go to jail. You got some of them on video bragging about it, so you know it’s the truth. I believe they would do it again too.”

“I’m a man of faith, so eventually I knew what they did to us would be brought to the light. Now I just hope that the government does something with the information that has been gathered,” said Mr. Herrington.