By Jeff Knox
The repercussions from Hurricane Katrina continue to roll in like the tidal surge that flooded New Orleans. The latest storm takes aim at guns and gunowners. As news trickles out of a final resolution in the lawsuits filed over the government’s illegal confiscation of firearms during the days after the flood, new reports of unprovoked attacks on African-Americans by white, neighborhood militias during the storm’s aftermath are beginning to surface. In a feature article in the liberal magazine "The Nation," titled “Katrina’s Hidden Race War,” writer A. C. Thompson suggests that a group organized to provide security for the Algiers Point neighborhood actually engaged in open warfare against unarmed, innocent blacks trying to reach an evacuation point on the other side of the neighborhood. In the article, Thompson combines first-person accounts of the victims of one attack, the statements of members of the neighborhood security group, African-American residents of the Algiers Point neighborhood, records from area hospitals, the coroner’s office, and generous helpings of hearsay and speculation to suggest that members of the security group engaged in racially motivated murder.
If there is any truth in these accusations, the perpetrators should be rooted out and punished. The Second Amendment is about defense of person, community, and country, not sport-hunting of humans. Anyone who accepts the responsibility of carrying a gun also accepts the responsibility of using it wisely. Governor Bobby Jindal should immediately launch a full investigation to either condemn or exonerate the members of the Algiers Point Militia.
There is no question that some of the rules change when the system completely breaks down as it did in New Orleans after Katrina, but using crisis as an excuse for criminal activity – whether looting, rape, murder, or government confiscation of firearms – must not be tolerated. Accurately piecing together the truth from the chaos of post-Katrina New Orleans will not be an easy task, but it is a task which must be undertaken to send a loud and clear message that the basics of right and wrong don’t change just because the official system is temporarily unavailable.
It is clear that the reporter in this story was extremely thorough in his investigation, but it is also clear that he was prejudicial in his conclusions. Throughout the article he paints a picture of Algiers Point as very racially divided and of the men who banded together to protect their neighborhood as racially motivated. He plays a complex game of connect the dots while intentionally skipping over some of the dots that obviously belong in the pattern. His innuendo paint with a broad brush and suggest that any group of Southern white men who formed security patrols in the wake of Katrina were trigger-happy bigots looking for the opportunity to shoot a black man. The clear suggestion is that people can’t be trusted to protect themselves and will, if given the opportunity, abuse their power by giving in to their worst instincts.
One critically important piece of information downplayed in the article was the description of the attackers provided by the victims. While the Algiers Point protective group was comprised primarily of middle-aged, blue-collar, white men, the victims interviewed described their attackers as young and heavily tattooed. When shown video clips of members of the Algiers Point group, the victims did not recognize any of them as having been involved in their attack. Of course this doesn’t prove that no one involved in the group was involved in the attack, but its minimal exposure does suggest some prejudice on the part of the author.
This article in “The Nation” is not the first suggestion that neighborhood patrols in the Katrina aftermath sometimes overreacted and used racial profiling, but this is the most thorough and specific such article to date and it is attracting attention. As that attention grows, it will doubtless be used to promote further restrictions on firearms.
Individuals have the right to defend themselves from criminal attack and they have the right – and the obligation – to band together to defend themselves and their communities in times of crisis when government authorities are unable or unwilling to do the job. This is a key purpose of the Second Amendment and has been effectively employed by resolute citizens since the founding of the nation. Unfortunately, there have historically also been cases of individuals and groups claiming to be protecting their communities who were in reality engaging in criminal activity – acting as judge, jury, and executioner, or in some cases, persecuting innocents for no lawful reason.
Knee-jerk condemnation of the Algiers Point group – and knee-jerk defense of their activities are both equally wrong. Any judgment must be reserved until a more thorough investigation can be conducted. For this reason, and on behalf of justice, Governor Jindal should use every resource at his disposal to find real answers and clear this matter up as soon as possible. Only a thorough, independent investigation can determine once and for all whether the members of the Algiers Point Militia deserve praise or condemnation.
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