Saturday, October 15, 2005

People picked up for minor crimes forced to work cleaning up New Orleans or see extended stays in makeshift jail sleeping on bus station floor.

This is why the New Orleans cops were trying to arrest, Robert Davis (who was subjet of video in cop beating in recent news). They wanted him to add to their de-facto chain gangs.*
Abuse, Forced Labor Rampant in New Orleans Justice System

    In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans authorities are arresting hundreds on minor charges such as breaking curfew or public intoxication, housing them in brutal conditions and then pushing them through a court process that forces most into working on clean-up projects at police facilities, according to numerous interviews and documents obtained by TNS.


    In interviews both inside and outside of Camp Amtrak, people who had been through the process told harrowing accounts of police brutality and harsh conditions. Some of them, like Davis, had visible injuries. Many said police had attacked them or others in their cells with pepper spray. All recounted trying to sleep on the concrete floor of the bus parking lot with just one blanket – or in some cases no blanket – to protect them from the cold and the mosquitoes which swoop in on randomly alternating nights here. None was given a phone call or access to an attorney.


    Sandy Freelander, a relief volunteer from Wisconsin, was also one of the hundreds arrested. He said that he and two friends – one a New Orleanian widely known here for having helped rescue hundreds of people in the Seventh Ward during the flooding – were detained by police in a parking lot last Thursday. He said that they were on their knees with their hands behind their heads when a police officer attacked his friend.

    "This middle-aged white [police officer] got real excited about kicking Reggae, Freelander said. "He came running across the parking lot and kicked [Reggae] in the hip while [Reggae] was down on his knees with his hands behind his head. [The officer] pushed [Reggae] on the ground and put his foot to the back of his neck and pointed his gun at him and said he was going to blow his fucking brains out if he moved again. This guy was really excited about beating up the first black guy he saw or something."

    Even though Freelander said the three had permission from the owner to be in the parking lot, the police arrested them on charges of criminal trespassing.

    Inside, Freelander said his friend was denied medical attention and that they witnessed police pepper-spraying other detainees, handcuffing a woman to a pole and leaving her for hours, and other instances of abuse. He, like all others interviewed by TNS, said he was not permitted a phone call or legal counsel, even after repeated requests.

    Major Troy Poret, part of a team that runs Camp Amtrak, was unapologetic about the treatment of inmates there. He stressed that the police have been working under extraordinary conditions since Hurricane Katrina and that many of the prisoners were from out of state.

    "These poor police officers are stretched out as far as they can be and yet you’ve got to mess with a bunch of gourd heads like we have down here and we have to make a jail for these kind of people," he said. "That’s what’s really bad about this whole [situation]."

    Poret, like many of the people working at Camp Amtrak, used to work at Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, a notorious jail among prisoners’ rights activists for its cruel conditions.

    Asked whether police were pepper-spraying prisoners, Poret was again unapologetic. "I have randomly had to use it," he said. "We have to use it if they are endangering other people in the pen or endangering their [own] lives.

Can you spot the gourd head? (Hint: He's the own repeating police talking points.)

It's very interesting what the New York Times does with just about the same information. I guess it's still full of writers covering for the right wing.
Courts' Slow Recovery Begins at Train Station in New Orleans

Excerpts from Times article:
    Fears of further looting have swelled the jail population. Talking angrily through the jail fence one afternoon, Charles Johnson, 17, said he had been arrested outside his grandmother's house for driving without a license.

    "The officer was going to let me go, but then he saw a brand-new printer in the car," Mr. Johnson said. "I'd gotten it out of the house. I have a lot of computer stuff, but he figured I'd stolen it."

    In the temporary court the next morning, Municipal Judge Paul N. Sens assigned Mr. Johnson a hearing date in January and released him. About 15 others were sentenced to community service for curfew violations, trespassing or public intoxication. "You have an opportunity to help the city recover," Judge Sens told them.


    Human Rights Watch said Thursday that many inmates were being treated unfairly. But many awaiting trial are being patient, said Tilden H. Greenbaum III, the director of the Orleans Indigent Defender Program.

    "Sooner or later, we're going to have to start making noise about it," Mr. Greenbaum said. "But given the magnitude of what everybody's been through, now is not the time to push."

Thanks, guys. I'm sure you're sleeping somewhere warm and soft at nights and not being forced to do hard labor for 1 blanket and insufficient meals because you were picked up on a curfew violation or even a trumped up charge!

*Yes, prisoners who have been convicted of crimes are used legally on chain gangs. The ones in New Orleans that we are talking about are made up of people waiting court dates, as a condition to be let out of Camp Amtrak a place where they are lucky to get one blanket and sleep on the floor of a bus station. Reading the articles we find that even drunks who would normally only get a short stay are being kept for weeks under the current system. Couple that with the trumped up charges on Robert Davis and you get the picture.


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