Monday, November 29, 2010

Louisiana Justice Institute Joins Observation of Haiti Elections

Summary of Election Day - 11/28/10 23:14EST
Louisiana Justice Institute Observer Group

Jacmel, Haiti

Despite the calm, peaceful and relatively orderly atmosphere earlier in the day a growing number of voters were confused about where to vote by mid-morning.

Registered voters who had been assigned a polling location at the time they received their identity card, could not vote at their assigned location. Reactions ranged from disappointment to rage. Many searched multiple locations unsuccessfully, seeking their name on any voter list but instead finding many of their deceased neighbors and family members listed.

In one case, a voter found his name on the voter list posted outside of the polling station, but that voter’s name did not appear on the official roll of voters inside the voting station managed by the voting officials. Initially he was denied the right to vote until a non-partisan observer intervened on his behalf. A polling official marked his ballot as provisional.

By early afternoon, conditions began to deteriorate, as voters exchanged stories about their personal experiences and frustrations, trying to cast a ballot.

Eleven months after the earthquake, and in the midst of a deadly cholera epidemic, many voters expressed a strong desire for change and their determination to claim their right as a citizen of Haiti to cast their ballot.

A consensus began to emerge by mid-afternoon that the credibility of the election was seriously challenged.

As news about the developments in Port au Prince reached Jacmel, the situation became unstable. Spontaneous manifestations broke out, beginning in the suburbs of Jacmel and spreading to the city with marches, tires burning in the streets, and an attach on the police headquarters with four burning tires and throwing rocks in the street. People gathered in small, anxious groups at storefronts, on the steps of houses, porches and in the streets.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Former Jena 6 Defendants Play in Bayou Classic

From the Friends of Justice Blog:
When the Grambling Tigers and the Southern Jaguars meet today in the New Orleans Superdome to play in the annual Bayou Classic, two members of the Jena 6 will be on the field.

Robert Bailey Jr. is number 85 for the Tigers and Mychal Bell is number 26 for the Jaguars. The game is being broadcast Saturday, November 27 at 1:00pm. Robert and Mychal are both working hard and maturing into fine young men. Two other former Jena 6 defendants are also involved in college sports: Corwin Jones is playing football with Tyler Jr. College in Texas and Bryant Purvis is playing basketball with Southern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana. Theo Shaw is enjoying his studies at the University of Louisiana, Monroe, and Jesse Ray Beard graduated from high school in 2009.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Louisiana Justice Institute Joins Human Rights Groups in Expressing Concerns About Upcoming Haitian Elections

Experts will be in Haiti for the elections, Sunday, November 28.

A delegation of U.S. and Haitian human rights organizations are in Haiti as unofficial election and human rights observers to monitor the Presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for Sunday November 28. The delegation is concerned that the rapid spread of a cholera epidemic across the country could gravely affect voter participation and threatens the validity of the election process. The group will be in Port-au-Prince and surrounding areas from Monday, November 22 through Wednesday, December 1.

Over the last several months, organizations represented in the delegation have been monitoring the situation on the ground. Despite overarching concerns about the increasingly desperate situation of Haiti’s homeless Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and about the exclusion of a number of political parties from the electoral process, representatives of the organizations and partners have been preparing in good faith to observe events during Haiti’s elections. There is a particular concern of insufficient preparation and response on the ground from those responsible for curbing the cholera epidemic, including international NGOs and international donor nations. With such pressing concerns unresolved, many members of Haitian civil society organizations, as well as numerous Presidential candidates, believe it nearly impossible to hold elections that would meet the most minimal standards of fairness and credibility at this time.

While in Haiti the delegation will monitor the human rights and political situation surrounding the elections, with particular attention to those most affected by the Quake, including police and U.N. response to protests, possible voter boycotts, voter access and participation levels, the cholera epidemic response; and the status of overall relief efforts. The delegation’s members will be in close contact with an array of local and national civil society organizations during their stay.

Among those who will participating in the delegation:

Melinda Miles, Director, Let Haiti Live, a project of TransAfrica: “Cholera is a game changer in the most fundamental sense. It is an immediate and critical crisis that requires all hands on deck in response. It is not for us to predict when the crisis will level off. What we can say, definitively, is that now is that the time for focus on the human needs first and not politics.”

Etant Dupain, Bri Kouri Nouvèl Gaye, Noise Travels, News Spreads: “Although the elections are necessary, in the midst of a humanitarian crisis there needs to be more attention to vulnerable populations. The NGOs have not responded adequately to the crisis and everyday there are more people dying, more people becoming infected due to a lack of potable water. Attention needs to be paid to the people who continue to live under tarps today. It is sad because these elections will not change anything, you see many people expressing their lack of support for the process.”

Alex Main, Policy Analyst, Center for Economic and Policy Research: "These elections were already highly problematic before the cholera epidemic began to spread. Haiti's electoral authority - the CEP - suffers from a lack of credibility; legitimate parties have been excluded from participating in the legislative elections; and very few effective measures have been taken to ensure that Haiti's over 1.3 million displaced people would have access to the polls. As a result of these problems, there was already a high probability that voter turnout would be very low and that the elections would be widely seen as illegitimate.”

Jacques Etienne Morial, Co-Director, The Louisiana Justice Institute:
“As respectful, understanding and supportive as we are of the determination of Haiti to assert its independence and stand on its own feet, the growing cholera epidemic imperils the legitimate elections that Haitians so urgently need to achieve this noble goal. Moving forward under the prevailing conditions undermines public confidence in any outcome that the people of Haiti deserve and need to move their recovery forward.”

Monday, November 22, 2010

Cholera Epidemic: President Jean-Bertrand Aristide Breaks the Silence

Photo Courtesy of Wadner Pierre

As the date for Haiti holding its General Elections approaches, more political leaders speak out over the credibility of the upcoming Elections. Many national and international political leaders, especially United States lawmakers, like D-Congresswoman Maxine Waters –other forty-four members of the US Congress –and the Rep-Senator Richard G. Lugar Fanmi Lavalas (FL), Haiti’s largest and most popular political party reiterated its position to boycott the Nov. 28 elections. Coming out on his silence, the FL’s National Representative, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide denounced the electoral process and the exclusion of his party in the race. President Jean-Bertrand- Aristide breaks His Silence .

In an exclusive interview conducted by filmmaker, Nicolas Rossier in Johannesburg, South Africa, Fanmi Lavalas National Representative, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide denounced the Nov. 28 Presidential and Legislative Elections. President said, “Last year, we observed them saying that they wanted to have elections, but indeed, they had a selection and not election… today, it’s again like the same.” For the FL leader, the ‘CEP and the Haitian Government’ have do not intend to organize free, fair and democratic elections. “They have no intention to organize free, just and democratic elections… they expect to have a selection. They excluded Fanmi Lavalas which is the party of the majority… it’s like in the United States you could organize elections without Democrats,” said President Aristide.

President Aristide was asked his point of view about the defunct candidacy of Wyclef. Aristide replied, “Wyclef came as an artist to run as a candidate, and it was a good thing for those who refuse elections… because it was for them an occasion to allow a ‘media circus’ to hide the real problem, which the exclusion of the majority… this is my point of view of the reality. ”

Haiti held its first free and democratic elections on December 16, 1990 in which Aristide was first elected President. December 16 remains an important date in the political history of Haiti. Former President Aristide as he frequently does, recalled the 1990’s elections to express the ‘desiderata’ or aspiration of Haitian people to forever and ever to give their country another direction. A new political era took place… it was democracy. “The first time Haiti had free, just and democratic elections, was in 1990, when I elected. Then we wanted to go from elections to elections,” he explained.

President Aristide criticized the Haitian elite for whom elections seem to be a nightmare. The Haiti’s elite class is well-known for its participation in coup d’états. President Aristide may be right when he criticizes the Haitian elites of being anti-election or “election-phobia,” when he was one of the victims of this class as a President. In September 11, 1991, the elite financed the first coup d’état against him – and in February. 29, 2004, this time the elite openly participated along with foreigners who exiled him in South Africa.

President Aristide explained, “In 2004, we moved towards a real democracy, and they said no. the Haitian minority – the political elite and economic fear free, just elections… and nor their foreign allies want election in Haiti. That is why they excluded Fanmi Lavas.” President Aristide added “As long as they refuse to respect the right of each citizen to participate in the free, just and democratic elections, the will not solve the problem.”
The exclusion of FL from the elections is a sophism emphasized President Aristide. President argued that the argument, on which the Provisional Electoral Council based to bar FL from participating in the 2009 and upcoming elections, is a flawed argument. “Not having Fanmi Lavalas in an election because it’s a sophism,” said President Aristide.

He recalled the letter that the CEP sent to him, asking him to take part in a meeting and his response to the CEP. President Aristide believes his response to the CEP was a smart move and a defeat for the CEP.
Aristide explained "wow it’s great. I am ready,” referring to his desire to return home to Haiti. Further, as the former President explains the letter sent by the Haitian government at the time, claimed, “If you can’t come, designate someone in behalf of your name." Aristide responded "Then I publically answered and asking Dr. Maryse Narcisse to represent the Fanmi Lavalas’ candidates based on the letter that I received from the CEP… but they refused because it was their trick to send me the letter assuming that I would not respond. Then they could tell the Haitian people, ' Listen, he does not want to participate in the election.' So, they used a pretext to believe that they are intelligent, but in reality this was to hide the truth.” Political trickery was used by Preval and his regime to keep Fanmi Lavalas from participating.

The ‘cholera outbreak’ in Haiti that already killed over 600 people may be an imported disease. Research showed that cholera is originally from East Asia, a region that includes Nepal. The Nepalese troops are based in the Down Plateau where the Artibonite River flows to the Dow Artibonite. The first and most cases of the cholera have discovered amongst of people in the regions listed above. That means, there may be a certain truth that cholera is an imported disease.

President Aristide first speculated about the origin of the cholera and then blamed those who organized the Feb. 29 coup d’état against him. “ Concerning the cholera incident, if yes or no it was imported – as critiques strongly suggested. Before all, those who organized the 2004 coup d’état /kidnapping paving the way for the invaders, now accused of being the cause of the recent cholera epidemic, must also share the blame,” Said former President Aristide.

President Aristide also pointed out that the widespread of the cholera is “ a structural order, rooted in the historical impoverishment of Haiti… the marginalization and exploitation in the years of 1980s.” he denounced the wiping out of the Creole pigs, and the destruction of the national rice industry by American rice industry – for which President Bill Clinton apologized. To finish President Aristide denounced the so-called, “friends of Haiti” who in 2003 blocked a loan approving by Inter American Development Bank/ IDB to his government. The loan and four others were to disinfect the Water of the Artibonite. “The loan and four others were blocked as part of a calculated strategy by so-called the friends of Haiti in order to weaken our government and justify the coup d’état,” he concluded.

The FL’s Leader reiterated his position to succumb or accept under the choice of the people.” first they (people) want my return. I respect that. If today they want to change, it be according to their will. It’s democracy,” stated President Aristide.

Meanwhile, many political parties oppose to the elections continue demanding the cancelation of the Nov. 28 elections and a new CEP to organize free, fair and democratic elections. It seems almost uncertain that these elections will take place, but the CEP and the government have desperately tried to insure that the schedule for the lections remain the same. Some FL’s supporters like Rene Civil, Jacques Matelier and others, are backing alternative candidates running in the election, the most popular of these alternatives being: Jean-Henry Ceant. But, in all likelihood it appears that local and transnational elites active in the country have been able to sideline (once again) Haiti's excluded masses-by not allowing Fanmi Lavalas to run in the elections. The election then serves as a facade for continued elite domination and the exclusion of attempts by the poor to organize.

The cholera epidemic is widely believed to be imported by UN soldiers in Haiti and has killed over 600 people. Meanwhile, there is little faith in CEP chosen by the Government to organize fair, free and democratic elections. One million of Haitians appear forgotten under the makeshift tents eleven months after the earthquake ruined the country as non-governmental organizations and the UN continue to hover around the country's man-made and natural disasters.

Special thanks to filmmaker, Nicolas Rossier who conducted the interview.
The original interview can be published on Haitiliberte website in French:

_ (

Wadner Pierre is a Haitian photojournalist who currently resides in New Orleans, Louisiana. Wadner is also a 2010 Justice Revius Ortique, Jr. Louisiana Justice Institute Internship Award recipient. Originally from the city of Gonaives in Haiti, he regularly writes for the Inter Press Service (IPS) and Haiti Liberte. Wadner is a co-founder and frequent contributor to, a media collective of young journalists. In 2007, he was a Project Censored Award recipient for his investigative journalism work on the impact of media and corruption in military policies.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Enough Is Enough: A Rally/Candlelight Vigil tribute for Messy Mya

Media Alert:

The family of Anthony Barre, along with Bounce Nation, a New Orleans-based nonprofit organization, bounce artists Sissy Nobby, Big Freedia and Crowd Mova Crystal as well as community activist Sess 4-5, will be holding a public rally/candlelight vigil this Friday at Nuthin’ But Fire Records to celebrate the life of Anthony Barre (December 15, 1987-November 14, 2010) known as Messy Mya.

As Messy Mya, Barre was a well-known New Orleans bounce artist, comedian and Internet video star. The 22-year-old was known for his razor sharp comedy routines and his YouTube videos, numbering more than 100, which have attracted more than a million hits worldwide.

Barre was gunned down at a block party after leaving his girlfriend’s baby shower on Sunday, November, 14. News of his tragic death traveled within minutes as onlookers snapped pictures of him lying bleeding on the ground. These horrific images were shared online on sites like Twitter and Facebook. Celebrities such as Kimora Lee-Simmons, Nicki Minaj and Chris Ocho Cinco have spoken out on Twitter about the New Orleans native’s murder and the callous, disrespectful manner the gruesome pictures were circulated in cyberspace.

“I don’t want my brother’s death to be just another unsolved homicide in New Orleans. Hundreds of people were at that party so I know somebody saw who killed him and what happened,” said his sister, Anjelle Barre, who will be speaking at the rally. “He was a talented person and loved by many. He was about to become a father. Enough is enough. Please stand with the Barre family in speaking out against my brother’s death and senseless violence.”

The Barre family is asking that everyone in attendance wear black. For more information, call 256-2400.

The vigil will be this Friday, at 4:00pm, at Nuthin’ But Fire Records, 1840 N. Claiborne.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Community Pressure Frees Immigrant Detainee Held in OPP

The following is an update of an earlier story from the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice:

Sheriff threatens to bring immigration agents to federal courthouse, but backs down under community pressure

Antonio Ocampo walked freely into the jubilant embrace of community members today after 97 days in illegal custody at the hands of Sheriff Marlin Gusman. The federal judge ordered Sheriff Gusman to produce Ocampo in an emergency hearing after Mr. Ocampo filed a writ of habeas corpus late Friday. The judge declared that Sheriff Gusman’s incarceration of Mr. Ocampo on an expired ICE detainer was indeed a violation of his constitutional rights. “When the constitution says ‘we the people’ that includes me,” said Mr. Ocampo shortly after his release.

Community members and advocates stared Sheriff Gusman down in a tense face-off that lasted all day. Soon after U.S. Marshall served him an order to appear in court, Sheriff Gusman attempted to turn Mr. Ocampo over to ICE custody. “Sheriff Gusman violated Mr. Ocampo’s constitutional rights and then attempted to deport the evidence,” said Jacinta Gonzalez “We stopped him.” Community protests outside Sheriff Gusman’s office led to a tense meeting in which Sheriff Gusman admitted that his lawyers had called immigration authorities and asked them to arrive at the courthouse. Furious community members demanded that Sheriff Gusman instruct his lawyers to call ICE off. “It is unconscionable that the Sheriff on the day he was to appear in federal court to defend himself against Mr. Ocampo’s allegations would recruit ICE to be his pitbull in an obvious attempt to intimidate Mr. Ocampo. Under threat of further protest and media exposure Sheriff Gusman backed down, disappeared into a back room in his office, and spoke to his lawyers. He immerged minutes later saying ICE would not appear at the courthouse.

Shortly thereafter, the Judge ordered Mr. Ocampo released. In a conversation before press Sheriff Gusman publicly committed to meet with the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice and the Congress of Day Laborers to talk about immigrant detainees and constitutional rights issues in OPP. “There are many more like me in there”, said Mr. Ocampo, “many more whose rights are being violated who don’t know when they are going to come out. I will dedicate myself to working on their behalf.”

Community Demands Immediate Release of Antonio Ocampo after 97 Days in Illegal Detention in OPP

From our friends at the New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice:
Federal Judge Hauls Sheriff Gusman To Court After Immigrant Detainee Sues Over Illegal Custody

A federal judge ordered U.S. Marshalls to serve papers on Sheriff Marlin Gusman this morning, demanding that he attend a court hearing today to defend his detention of Antonio Ocampo. Mr. Ocampo sued Sheriff Gusman Friday afternoon, reporting that he had been held in illegal detention for 95 days, in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Community members will stage a protest at Sheriff Gusman’s offices at 1:30 pm today, demanding that he release Mr. Ocampo in advance of the court hearing.

Mr. Ocampo filed five separate official grievance forms in Orleans Parish Prison (OPP) to report his illegal detention. “I gave each written complaint to an official at the prison, he said. “I never got any response.” Constitutional experts said the Sheriff violated Mr. Ocampo’s Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Mr. Ocampo filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in federal court Friday even as he continued to languish at OPP.

“We will confront Sheriff Gusman directly to demand that he release Antonio Ocampo to the community,” said Jacinta Gonzales, Lead Organizer with the Congress of Day Laborers. “Antonio Ocampo has been in illegal detention for close to 100 days. Sheriff Gusman has violated the Constitution. We won’t let him deport the evidence.”

The judge has ordered Sheriff Gusman to appear in court with Mr. Ocampo at 3 pm today. Members of Mr. Ocampo’s community will hold a press conference at Sheriff Gusman’s office at 1:00 pm, demanding he release Mr. Ocampo in compliance with U.S. law.

WHAT: Press conference and protest aimed at Sheriff Marlin Gusman.

WHY: To demand the immediate release of Mr. Antonio Ocampo, on his 98th day in illegal custody at the hands of Sheriff Marlin Gusman.

WHERE: Office of Sheriff Marlin Gusman, 819 South Broad Street, 70119

WHEN: 1 pm, Monday, November 15, 2010.

WHO: Congress of Day Laborers, New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice, and citizens in defense of the U.S. Constitution.

Haiti: Cholera Killed Over 900 People -Hundreds Deceased Names Remain in the Electoral Lists

Haiti prepares to hold controversial elections, natural disasters and disease may force the Haitians authorities to reschedule the Presidential and Legislative Elections.

By Wadner Pierre
On January 12, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit the western and southern parts of Haiti. Over 300,000 people perished, and more than a million were left homeless. This tragedy brought the world together to help Haiti in our time of need. Ordinary citizens from all over the world sent their US dollars and Euros etc, to aid Haitians.

Unfortunately, as it is always been, the money was mostly used to pay for the UN and major NGOs’ bureaucracies, instead of helping the victims of the earthquake. Haiti’s “allies” met and promised several billions of dollars for the reconstruction of the country. Ten months later, the majority of earthquake’s survivors continue to live under makeshift tents and tarps. In the middle of this tragedy combined with empty promises, Haitians have kept their hope alive, and will be forever united. Haitians continue to support each other in any way they can. The world has praised Haitians’ courage. Though the Haitian government shows its incapacity to govern the country, Haitians remain faithful to Haiti’s noble democratic heritage and are eager to vote to choose their leaders in fair, free, inclusive and democratic Presidential and Legislative Elections.


On October 24, 2010 Haitians were awakened with heartbreaking news- Cholera has caused hundreds of deaths amongst their population. On October 25, Haiti’s Health Ministry announced Cholera had already killed 259 people, and infected at least 3,345. The UN Mission in Haiti is accused of causing the widespread of Cholera disease. The UN has denied this accusation. Investigations have been launched to determine the cause of the rapid outbreak of Cholera amongst the vulnerable Haitian population. Over 200 cases of cholera have been confirmed in the Artibonite Department, most particularly among those who live across the Artibonite River.

Nepalese military hired a private company, Sanco Enterprises S.A. to clean the buried septic in their base. Due to the lack of administrative oversight, the company carelessly dumped the human waste in an area where the fecal matter can flow easily into the Artibonite River. Perhaps, sometimes the buried septic inside the military base can overflow as the Associated Press journalist, Jonathan M. Katz explained in his article. “A buried septic tank inside the fence was overflowing and the stench of excrement wafted in the air… Broken pipes jutting out from the back spewed liquid. One, positioned directly behind latrines, poured out a reeking black flow from frayed plastic pipe which dribbled down to the river where people were bathing,” wrote Katz.

People, who live along the river and those living few miles away from the river, use the water to drink, shower, wash their clothes and etc.

The widespread of the Cholera makes officials, scientist and people begin to ask question since there was no case of cholera discovered in Haiti before the arriving of the UN troops in the country, particularly the Nepalese.

The Senator of Artibonite, Youry Latortue demanded a serious investigation to determine the origin of Haitian Cholera outbreak. He said,” There must be a thorough investigation.” He mentioned that people who live in the Mirbalais area, where the Nepalese military base is located, are prepared to testify about what they saw. .“There are people who are willing to testify,” said Sen. Latortue. “We must fix responsibility and take action to prevent the disease spreading across the country," concluded Sen. Latortue. Another member of the Haitian National Assembly, Senator of the Department of Nippes, William Jeanty expressed his fear. He said that, “He doubly panicked for the 70% of the population that do not have access to potable –and the 80% that do their needs outside access of conventional toilets” reported Association Haitienne de Presse (Haitian Associated Press) AHP.

A report from the U.S Center for Diseases and Control stated that the cholera outbreak ravaging Haiti is commonly found in South Asia. Dr. Christopher Braden from the CDC said, “South Asia refers to the area around the Indian subcontinent - India, Pakistan and other countries including Nepal...The finding does not identify the source of the disease or say how it arrived in Haiti, but it eliminates other possibilities including a hypothesis that the strain might be related to a 1990s South American outbreak.”

Claire-Lise Chaignat, head of the World Health Organization's Global Task Force on Cholera Control said, “We are very surprised to see the epidemic in Haiti. We have never found cholera there before." Chaignat failed to say that there were no cases of Cholera reported in Haiti prior the newly arriving UN troops from Nepal in Haiti. After the CDC report, people began to speculate about what may have caused the rapid outbreak of cholera, most particularly in the Down Central Plateau and Down Artibonite regions of Haiti.

Agence Haitienne de Presse (Haitian Press Agency) reported that the inhabitants of the Down Central Plateau, and Down Artibonite regions, where most cases are reported, demanded the departure of Nepalese troops who are stationed in the region. Cholera has already killed over 300 people since its appearance on October 24. The Herald-Tribune reported that hundreds of protesters marched from the nearby city of Mirebalais to demand the Nepalese ‘peacekeepers’ be sent home.

Three weeks after the first cases discovered, cholera killed over 500, and hospitalized over 10,000 people. This week cholera has reaches in the Haiti’s capital and already killed over 50 people. “No places in the hospitals,” said a 26-year-old woman, Marie Jonat. The cholera may be able to cause more victims in Port-Au-Prince since the living conditions is worst than everywhere in the country. Over one million people have been living in the camps without the basic sanitarian protection in the aftermath of the Jan. 12 earthquake which killed over 300 000 people.

UN troops may be responsible for the outbreak of Cholera in Haiti. UN presence in Haiti has been seen as an occupying force, particularly amongst the partisans of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who do not cease to demand his return to Haiti from exile in South Africa.


Meanwhile, the battle against the upcoming-programmed Presidential and Legislative Elections continues. In a statement signed by two reminding members of the Fanmiy Lavalas’ Executive Cmmitee, Maryse Narcisse and former FL Parliamentary, Lionel Etienne, the party of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, reiterated its position to boycott the Nov. 28 General Elections. "The Lavalas Family declares that it will not participate in the Nov. 28 selection process, it is not supporting any candidate, it doesn't have anybody representing it, and it is not sending anybody to represent it, even under the table," said the statement. The statement also criticized the UN representative in Haiti Edmund Mulet for” having no respect for the Haitian people” –and President Rene Preval as an "ungrateful hypocritical regime which has come to bury the memory of our ancestors,” said the FL statement.

The names of people who died during the earthquake remain on the CEP’s electoral list. This breaking news was disclosed in a meeting in Washington by Chief of the Joint OAS-CARICOM Electoral Observation Mission in Haiti, Ambassador Colin Granderson. Many are asking the question. To whom the CEP is going to attribute the votes of the dead Haitians?

As Haiti desperately prepares to hold Presidential and Legislative Elections, Haitians feel insecure about their health with the presence of the UN troops in their regions. A growing number of Haitians believe UN troops are likely responsible for the deadly Cholera disease that has already killed over 300 people in the Haiti as thousands more suffer from the outbreak. Haitian voters seem to have little if any faith in the CEP to organize free, fair and democratic elections.

The CEP’s President, Gaillot Dorsinvil, is confident that the elections will take place. Ironically, he continues to ignore all the problems and mistakes the CEP has already made which undermine the legitimacy of these elections. “The fate of the elections is up to the government, and as far as the council was concerned, the vote was moving ahead as scheduled.” Dorsinvil told the Miami Herald.

Despite the major irregularities that entrenched the electoral process, and the natural disasters and epidemic that have devastated the country, the CEP and Preval’s administration refuse to take action in order to make the electoral process trustworthy, inclusive and democratic. Instead, both CEP and the Preval’s Administration are more likely willing to lead Haiti to ever historical non-transparent elections. With these ‘Elections’ take place, the struggle for a state of law and social justice in Haiti may remain uncertain or fragile under the President Preval and UN leadership.

Wadner Pierre is a Haitian photojournalist who currently resides in New Orleans, Louisiana. Wadner is also a 2010 Justice Revius Ortique, Jr. Louisiana Justice Institute Internship Award recipient. Originally from the city of Gonaives in Haiti, he regularly writes for the Inter Press Service (IPS) and Haiti Liberte. Wadner is a co-founder and frequent contributor to, a media collective of young journalists. In 2007, he was a Project Censored Award recipient for his investigative journalism work on the impact of media and corruption in military policies.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Coalition Concerned with Lack of Transparency on OPP Expansion Plan

From our friends at the Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition:
The Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition (OPPRC), a varied group of individuals and organizations from all over the New Orleans community, is concerned by the lack of transparency from the Criminal Justice Working Group, a Mayoral-appointed body charged with evaluating Sheriff Marlin Gusman’s plan to expand the Orleans Parish Prison.

The OPPRC has expressed three key reservations about the Working Group’s process:

1) Lack of attention and opportunity for public input, lack of transparent process. After months of deliberations and with minimal input from the New Orleans community, two public hearings have finally been scheduled to generate community input about the OPP expansion plan. However, the planning for these public hearings has been logistically disorganized—from the lack of timely public notification, to a last minute change of date, to indeterminate venues—and the public has not had access to information such as published proposals, updated budgets, blueprints, designs and regular progress reports. This disorganization and lack of information reduces the opportunity for a cross-section of the population to provide input about a project that could cost taxpayers as much as $250,000,000. Additionally, the OPPRC is concerned that the public will not have an opportunity to review and give input to the recommendations of the Working Group before these recommendations are turned over to the Mayor.

2) The Working Group does not have essential information required to make an informed opinion. The OPPRC contends that it is unacceptable that a publicly funded project that would directly affect the lives of thousands of people could advance without basic information about the jail’s construction cost, financing, operating costs, total prisoner capacity, and use of capacity upon completion. The Working Group has not been provided, or has yet to disclose, an explanation on the total number of prisoners by group the project intends to incarcerate. It is still unclear as to whether the jail will house state or federal prisoners and if so, how many. Further, with NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas’ recent announcement that the NOPD will no longer arrest people with outstanding warrants for non-violent offenses, there is an expected decrease in prisoner length of stay. There has been little consideration, if any, of data on jail sizes in comparable cities around the country, nor has any alternative to the Sheriff’s proposal been sought. The Working Group must factor into its recommendations specific figures related to arrest procedures, prisoner classification, national best practices and prison size. This information is crucial if the Working Group is to make informed and reliable recommendations on the efficacy of the proposed OPP expansion.

3) There is not enough time for the Working Group to deliberate. The Working Group plans to issue its recommendations on the OPP expansion project on November 22nd, 2010. This timeline does not allow the Working Group to generate sufficient public input nor does the timeline engender public trust in the Working Group’s capacity to incorporate the basic information necessary to make informed recommendations.

The OPPRC calls for a third public hearing with at least two weeks public notice and confirmed date, times, and venue before the Working Group submits its recommendations to Mayor Landrieu. Additionally, in preparation for this meeting, the public should have access to up-to-date planning and financial documents, proposals, and reports, including the recently completed “Jail Population Projections Study Base Projection and Alternatives” report furnished by Dr. James Austin.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Rev. Torin T. Sanders, Ph.D.

I once heard that the legendary Andrew Young, sometime after the assassination of Martin Luther King, said that it was “now time to integrate the money”. What this statement underscored was that the fight for civil rights was not the end, but the means to an end. As degrading and humiliating as segregation was, it was still not enough to be able to walk through the front door of a hotel or to sit at a lunch counter. We wanted also to be able to afford to spend the night and to pay for the meal. That fight – the battle for economic parity – is still only just beginning.

It is within this context that the battle of Richards and Metro to maintain their sanitation contracts with the City of New Orleans should be understood. It is why Richards and Metro mean so much to so many of us. We remember our history and that history informs our understanding of the present. African-Americans helped to build this city, largely for free as unpaid slaves and laborers. When slavery ended and the curtain closed on the period of Reconstruction, a time during which African-Americans began in earnest to participate politically and economically, we entered another hell called Jim Crow, legal segregation – the reinstallment of White supremacy in EVERY area of life, including economically. We were now free to be poor, free to be exploited economically, free to be servants and maids, free to be second class, free to be lynched if we acted as though we were entitled to fair treatment in any aspect of life. Space does not permit a full treatment of this topic here, but interested readers should explore chapter six of the book entitled Long Memory written by noted historians Mary Frances Berry and John Blassingame.

That is why over a hundred years after slavery had ended, Dr. King declared in the historic March on Washington speech that the Negro had come to cash a check, a check “which has come back marked insufficient funds”. That was 1963. Here it is 2010. Five years ago the whole world witnessed that African-Americans, in New Orleans at least, had not progressed very far from the poverty which had marked our past. Despite being a majority African-American city, African-Americans have yet to achieve any semblance of real economic power. Our rate of poverty – twice the national average. The rate of black unemployment – above the national average. New Orleans is known for its port, its tourism – yet African Americans have a miniscule presence in either of these industries as employers and owners. We clean hotels, we don’t own them; we drive cabs but we don’t own the companies; we unload ships and containers, but we don’t own them or the docks where the work is done; and for years, many years, we picked up the city’s trash, but we never owned the company that had the contract – until a few years ago. Ironically, even this opportunity came only in the midst of an unprecedented crisis where others who were able to bid didn’t even see the work as a worthwhile risk.

This is why Richards and Metro mean so much. Let me be clear. No one wants to pay more for a service than what it’s worth. But the data says that’s not the issue. Metro charges $18.15 per household and Richards charges $22.00 per household. Baton Rouge residents pay $19.00. St. Tammany residents pay between $24.00 to $30.00. Residents in cities such as Atlanta and Tampa pay over $25.00 per household. No one wants to pay a company that renders poor service. But no one says that’s the issue either. No one wants the city to do business with companies which received their contracts in a questionable manner. But that’s not the issue either. Well, what about the fact that we just can’t afford the service? That may be plausible were it not for the fact that the Mayor’s proposed 2011 budget adds an additional $8 million to the Mayor’s office and an additional $11 million to the Chief Administrative Office (CAO).

I do not believe Mayor Landrieu is racist or a white supremacist. Quite the contrary. However, given the facts and the history presented here, it is safe to say that his actions, if successful, would be a critical setback to the cause and interest of African American economic advancement in the city of New Orleans. Metro and Richards mean more to African-Americans than just the companies that pick up our trash. They represent a giant step forward, they signify new possibility for a people once denied, their presence indicates that African-Americans have arrived as a people to be serious players in the economy of New Orleans – a city whose beginnings we helped to build. To threaten them is to threaten all of our economic viability. To put them and their businesses at risk so freely and cavalierly is to treat us all with the same disrespect. That is unacceptable. And we should all remember.

Dr. Torin T. Sanders is a licensed clinical social worker, an ordained minister, an experienced family therapist, parent educator, mediator and a mentor trainer. For over 13 years, Dr. Sanders has served as pastor of The Sixth Baptist Church, organized in 1858. Dr. Sanders earned his bachelor's degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C. He graduated magna cum laude and was admitted to Phi Beta Kappa. He earned both his master's degree and Ph.D. in social work from Tulane University. He has served as an adjunct faculty member at both Southern University at New Orleans and Tulane University schools of social work.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Protests Disrupt New Orleans Conference Featuring Israeli War Leaders

In two days of demonstrations, a coalition of New Orleans activists and allies from across the US protested both inside and outside the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, which was meeting in New Orleans.
The assembly featured Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as Israeli political and military leaders Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak. The three leaders have come under criticism for a range of human rights abuses, from settlement expansion and policies that support ethnic cleansing of Palestinians to accusations of war crimes. Netanyahu has lately faced international criticism for his support of a proposed "Loyalty Oath," which would require Christian and Muslim citizens of the Israeli state to "swear loyalty" to the idea of second-class citizenship for non-Jewish citizens. During the assembly, the Prime Minister met with US Vice President Biden, who offered unwavering US support for the far-right policies of the Netanyahu government.
The conference meets in New Orleans from November 5-9, but the main events - and protests - were scheduled for yesterday and today.
On Sunday, more than fifty protesters marched down Canal Street to the Sheraton and Marriott hotels, which hosted the conference. Organized and endorsed by several local groups, the coalition was brought together by New Orleans Palestine Solidarity, and the University of New Orleans and Delgado chapters of the General Union of Palestinian Students. The protest carried the message that "War Criminals Are Not Welcome in New Orleans," and several speakers gave moving speeches, including one Palestinian student who spoke of harassment at Israeli military checkpoints that caused a ten minute trip to school to take several hours.

Today, one local activist joined with US and Israeli activists with the national organization Jewish Voice for Peace in disrupting Netanyahu's speech from inside the conference. Activists made it inside the hall to disrupt Netanyahu's speech at least five times, unfurling banners and speaking out before being carried away by security.

Protest photos by Abdul Aziz.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Sex Worker Advocates Highlight New Orleans Human Rights Violations at United Nations

From our friends at Women With A Vision:
United States Human Rights Record Examined in Geneva

Geneva, Switzerland- Sex workers and their allies are among the U.S.-based human rights advocates lobbying the U.N. Human Rights Council this week, as the U.S. government submits its record as part of the Universal Periodic Review Process. Among the violations the advocates hope the Council will address include: the registration of sex workers as sex offenders in New Orleans, and rampant violence and extortion committed by police officers against sex workers and those police perceive as such. The violations are listed in a report created in preparation for these meetings with the extensive participation from across the U.S. of individuals and organizations run by and/or for sex workers and people who do sexual exchange.

The report also describes debilitating criminalization, the particular targeting of transgender people and people of color in the policing of sex work, and a lack of access to health care and other services. “In the US sex workers are often viewed as criminals who deserve punishment or whatever else comes their way—but if we can affirm their humanity in an international human rights arena, our efforts for change will have greater traction within the United States,” explains Penelope Saunders, of Best Practices Policy Project.

Advocates in New Orleans hope to draw particular attention to the impacts of NOPD’s and the local district attorney’s office’s use of a centuries-old “Crimes Against Nature” law to charge people arrested for sex work with felonies, and force them to register as sex offenders. The result of this persecution is that over half of those registered as sex offenders in New Orleans are people arrested for sex work and charged with a crime against nature, and of those, 78% are African American and almost all are women and transgender women.

In an interview earlier this year, Deon Haywood, director of New Orleans-based Women With A Vision told a reporter, “This law completely disconnects our community members from what remains of a social safety net.” Women With a Vision promotes wellness and disease prevention for women who live in poverty.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

ACLU of LA Seeks Sheriff's Records Related To FEMA Funding Of Orleans Parish Prison Expansion

From our friends at the ACLU of Louisiana:
Following up on last week's post about a Freedom of Information Act request filed with FEMA, the American Civil Liberties Union yesterday submitted a similar request to Sheriff Marlin Gusman. The FOIA request seeks public records concerning the resources allocated by FEMA for the proposed expansion of the Orleans Parish Prison (OPP).

Despite his plans to dramatically expand the capacity of OPP to 5,800 prisoners, Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman has provided no documents showing the funding that he says is committed to the project. Although Sheriff Gusman asserts that the project will be underwritten by FEMA, he has never disclosed the extent of FEMA funds or the conditions imposed upon those funds.

“The public still has no idea where the hundreds of millions of dollars needed to expand the prison is coming from,” said Marjorie Esman, Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana. “We've asked FEMA for their records, but Sheriff Gusman must account to New Orleans residents so we will know what we will have to pay for his planned expansion. Without that information we can't know whether the money will be well spent.”

Among other things, the ACLU asks for plans or proposals concerning the demolition, rebuilding, repair or expansion of OPP and documents related to funds FEMA has allocated or disbursed for such projects as well as how the use of those funds might be restricted.

The proposed new size of OPP would be large enough to incarcerate one out of every 60 residents of New Orleans. Yet outside experts have shown that the jail's size could easily be reduced if New Orleans were to adopt commonsense criminal justice policies like expanding pre-trial release options, providing community service sentencing, and setting more appropriate and cost-effective sanctions for minor municipal offenses.

New Orleans residents have expressed mounting concerns during the past year about whether this massive expansion of OPP is warranted. These concerns prompted the New Orleans City Council to postpone in July final approval of Gusman’s expansion plans until a special working group convened by Mayor Mitch Landrieu determines the optimal size for OPP. The working group is expected to release its findings in late November.

“We continue to seek independent scrutiny of Sheriff Gusman’s plans, as well as full disclosure of all of the information,” Esman said. “The public simply doesn't know where the money will come from and whether there are strings attached to it. The people of New Orleans deserve to know how much this will cost. Now may be the final window of opportunity to access that information.”

A copy of the ACLU’s request is available online at this link.