Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Update on bridge story

Larry Bradshaw and Lorrie Beth Slonsky, the couple who wrote Hurricane Katrina--Our Experiences that I posted about here, were interviewed on CNN recently. You can see a clip of one of their interviews today on CNN's homepage. They were dressed in black and had matching buttons on their shirts, but my resolution isn't good enough to read them. They reiterated what they had written, and it was clear they had strong feelings about it.

The tourists had been told by police that there would be buses waiting for them on the bridge to Gretna, and with that good news they began their trek, a crowd joining them on the way.
"We had people in wheelchairs, we had people in strollers, people on crutches, so we were a slow-moving group," said Bradshaw. "And we didn't think anything when we saw the deputies there. Then all of a sudden we heard shooting."
They claimed that they witnessed police shooting above the crowd to disperse it. Shocked they tried to negotiate with the police but to no avail.

"What we were told by the deputies is that they were not going to allow another New Orleans, and they weren't going to allow a Superdome to go into their side of the bridge, Gretna," said Slonsky.

"So to us, that reeks absolute racism, since our group that was trying to cross over was women, children, predominantly African-American," she said.

They regrouped and someone stole a water truck and they found some rations, and thus provided for, the set up an encampment. In their letter they report a cooperative community spirit. But

...the police came back at dusk.

"Jumped out of his car with the gun aimed at us, screaming and cursing and yelling at us to get the blank-blank away," he said "And just, just so rabidly angry. And we tried to reason, we tried to talk. And he was just putting his gun in the face of young children and families. It said Gretna on the police car."

The letter goes on to say that a helicopter buzzed them, the wind from the rotors breaking up their camp.

The clip then goes on to present the other side of the story. Anderson Cooper interviews Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson who defended the closing of the bridge.

"We had no preparations," he said. "You know, we're a small city on the west bank of the river. We had people being told to come over here, that we were going to have buses, we were going to have food, we were going to have water, and we were going to have shelter. And we had none.

"Our people had left. Our city was locked down and secured, for the sake of the citizens that left their valuables here to be protected by us."

He said as far as he knew shots hadn't been fired. He hadn't talked to his police officers yet, but promised to look into it.

Asked why Gretna authorities did not allow the group into town and call for buses, Lawson said, "Who were we going to call?"

"We had no radios. We had no phones. We had no communications, as I just told you," he said. "We had not spoken to the city of New Orleans prior to or during this event. Who were we going to call? What were we going to do with thousands of people without enough water to sustain them, without enough food to sustain them, or without any shelter?"

I'm curious what the blogosphere has to make of the story now. I'm going to guess that the dispute will shift from whether the account is true to the question of who's point of view about it is valid.

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