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Repression against grassroots hurricane relief lingers in New Orleans

Katrina

The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy has raised the question once again of whether post-disaster relief can help build organizations and networks that will create more resilient communities for the future. In trying to do so, East Coast activists and grassroots organizations — including the Occupy movement’s Occupy Sandy campaign — have been following in the footsteps Common Ground Collective’s relief efforts in post-Katrina New Orleans. Even now, especially in the wake of Hurricane Isaac, the effects of organizing after Katrina are still being felt along the Gulf Coast.

Repression against grassroots hurricane relief lingers in New Orleans

by Jake Olzen
Waging Nonviolence
November 9, 2012

The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy has raised the question once again of whether post-disaster relief can help build organizations and networks that will create more resilient communities for the future. In trying to do so, East Coast activists and grassroots organizations — including the Occupy movement’s Occupy Sandy campaign — have been following in the footsteps Common Ground Collective’s relief efforts in post-Katrina New Orleans. Even now, especially in the wake of Hurricane Isaac, the effects of organizing after Katrina are still being felt along the Gulf Coast.

Since Hurricane Katrina landed over seven years ago, residents of New Orleans and the surrounding communities have faced one environmental and humanitarian crisis after another. The BP Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010 severely damaged the Gulf ecosystem, leaving the public to bear the costs. Epidemics of poverty, homelessness, violence and incarceration continue to plague New Orleans. When Hurricane Isaac recently pounded the Gulf Coast with heavy rains that led to extensive flooding in August, it left in its wake another environmental disaster.

In nearby Braithwaite, La., the Stolthaven Chemical Facility has reported that as many as 191,000 gallons of chemicals — including toxics such as octene — may have leaked into surrounding waterways and communities. The Times-Picayune has documented the troubling inconsistencies in Stolthaven’s own reports to those of the Coast Guard and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality regarding the contents of the spill. Residents were allowed to return to their homes — which have been severely damaged — for a few hours a day. With little support coming from government agencies, the continued experience of being forgotten and left to fend for themselves is par for the course for many New Orleans residents.

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