Huge March Planned for Eve of Katrina Evictions

By David Swanson

A march had been planned for February 28, the eve of the scheduled March 1 evictions of Hurricane Katrina victims. FEMA moved the evictions to March 15, so activists have moved the march to March 14. A press conference on Capitol Hill will be followed by a march through Washington, D.C., past FEMA, past the Department of Homeland Security, and to the White House, where a permit has been obtained to rally in Lafayette Square Park until midnight. If Bush does not meet the marchers’ demands, however, many plan not to leave.

The demands are for a serious housing plan for those already evicted and those still in hotels, and an end to evictions. Another way of putting it is that the marchers will be demanding that the federal government cease violating the law by working to exclude people from a city on the basis of race and class.

Last night Reverend Lennox Yearwood, whom many saw on television being tossed out of a Congressional hearing for questioning Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, and who has received death threats for his activism, convened an organizing meeting and formed committees to put together as large a march as possible.

Yearwood recounted for those present the history of FEMA’s broken promises and shifting deadlines, the December 1 deadline, the December 14 deadline, etc., up through the latest moved deadline. But Yearwood also spoke of the suicides of those with nowhere left to go, the 80 percent increase in alcohol sales in effected neighborhoods, the absolute hopelessness of people whom this country has abandoned. “We’re not asking for another moved deadline,” Yearwood said, “but for a moratorium on evictions and anything that looks like an eviction until they have a plan for housing.”

Joel Segal, Vice Chair of the advisory board of Progressive Democrats of America, spoke as well. “FEMA is telling the media they have a housing plan,” he said. “FEMA is lying.” There are 13,000 trailers sitting in Arkansas waiting to go to New Orleans, he said. There are 12,000 people evicted with no where to go. If they get a trailer, Segal said, it has no electricity.

The Gulf Coast Renewal Campaign released this statement:

Yesterday FEMA announced a two-week extension for all hotel/motel residents in Louisiana and Mississippi, which enables them to remain in their rooms until March 15, 2006. Once again, we witness the impact that a coalition of conscience and a unified commitment to action for Katrina survivors can have on the otherwise unfettered execution of the Bush administrations authority. For this reason, we are postponing
our press conference, March and vigil until March 14, 2006.

However, the Gulf Coast Renewal Campaign is not demanding that FEMA move deadlines, but that FEMA move Katrina survivors into viable and affordable transitional and long-term housing. We demand that FEMA move the displaced into trailers so that they can work to rebuild their own homes. We protest the psychological cruelty of this agency in constantly holding the peril of homelessness over the heads of our brothers and sisters. We object to FEMA holding survivors in limbo, perpetually uncertain about what should be guaranteed for these victims of government neglect and ineptitude. Sending people long distances from their communities, to live in temporary shelters or trailers where they cannot keep their jobs is unacceptable. Offering limited rental assistance to a selective group, which cannot pay for real apartments in a city where price gouging has sent rents sky high, is unacceptable.

We are postponing our rally in Lafayette Park and press conference accordingly until March 14, but we are not postponing our call for justice: NO EVICTIONS UNTIL REAL TRANSITIONAL & PERMANENT HOUSING IS AVAILABLE FOR ALL TO RETURN HOME! TRAILERS IN NEW ORLEANS NOW! PASS H.R. 4197!

Over the next two weeks, we will continue to build our campaign on the ground and in Congress to pass “The Hurricane Reclamation, Recovery, Reconstruction and Relief” Act for comprehensive assistance to enable all Katrina survivors to return and rebuild their communities.

Please join us on March 14 for this historic press conference, March and vigil in front of the house where George Bush serenely sleeps while thousands face the prospect of their families having no shelter.

Press Conference: 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
(Press Conference: Rayburn House Office Building – Room #2237)
Mardi Gras Style March for Justice: 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
(March will start from Capitol South Metro Stop at 2:00 p.m. to the White House)
Rally & Protest at the White House: 3:00 p.m. – 11:59 p.m.
(Rally & Protest at the White House – Lafayette Park)