Friday, May 28, 2010

The Fight for Public Housing in New Orleans is Not Over

A demonstration over the rights of former public housing residents turned into direct action today as more than 70 people streamed into the rental offices of Columbia Parc, the new name of the former St Bernard public housing development.

The crowd included dozens of former public housing residents, including former St Bernard residents like Stephanie Mingo and Sharon and Kuwana Jasper; civil rights lawyers like Bill Quigley and Davida Finger; activists from grassroots organizations like Stand with Dignity, Safe Streets Strong Communities, Critical Resistance; and many others. Their demands were simple: "they promised us that former residents would be able to move into these new units," said activist Stephanie Mingo. "They lied. Now we're trying to hold them to their word." Activists complained that Columbia Parc has placed unreasonable requirements on former residents, making it practically impossible for any of them to find homes in this supposed "mixed income" development that was built over their former homes.

More than 1,500 families lost their homes when the St. Bernard development was torn down. Activists say that 130 units in the new development were supposedly set aside for former residents, but even that small number has not materialized.

The action was the beginning of a weekend of actions organized by local housing rights organizations Survivors Village, Mayday New Orleans, and others. More actions are planned for Saturday and Sunday morning, starting at 9:00am.

The actions in New Orleans are part of a month of actions in support of the right to housing that have been taking place across the US, from New York City to Portland, OR to Madison, WI, Chicago, IL, San Francisco, CA, and several more. These actions have all been organized by local groups affiliated with the Take Back the Land Movement (TBLM). TBLM is a network of local organizations dedicated to demanding people's fundamental human right to housing housing and community control over land.

M. Endesha Juakali of Survivors Village says the reason for these actions are simple. "You've got 20,000 homeless people in New Orleans and 60,000 empty houses," he says. "It's basic math."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

New Orleans Workers Stand in Solidarity With People of Arizona

In recent weeks, the New Orleans' Workers Center for Racial Justice has been sending activists from their organization to Arizona to document and stand in solidarity with the grassroots immigrants' rights movement in that state. Since the passage of SB 1070, the notorious Arizona law that legalizes racial profiling, Arizona legislators have also passed laws that ban ethnic studies and attack teachers based on perceived accents. In short, they are creating an atmosphere that is unsafe and unlivable for many, and it is time to fight back.

On Mother's Day, a delegation of national feminists and labor leaders, journalists and organizers - including several folks from the New Orleans Workers Center - went to Arizona to record the experiences of women and children in the wake of this bill.

According to a recent report from the Workers Center, "The testimonies we heard make clear in vivid and haunting detail that SB 1070 constitutes a violation of principles we hold dear. The draconian legislation has paved the way for assaults on basic human rights and has created an environment in which violence against women and children - physical, spiritual and legal - has been state-sanctioned. Recognizing these issues are relevant across ethnic and immigrant communities, the national outrage at the passage of this bill has catalyzed a movement for immigrant rights."

New Orleanians who had been to Arizona came to a reportback on Saturday, May 22, at First Grace United Methodist Church in Midcity. More than a hundred members and staff of the Workers Center and their allies, including representatives from STAND for Dignity, the Congress of Day Laborers, and Safe Streets Strong Communities, came out to the event. Black and Latino New Orleanians in attendance drew links between the racial profiling faced by African Americans here with that faced by Latinos in Arizona, and spoke of the importance of uniting and struggling together for justice everywhere.

As a next step, members of the Workers Center are planning to send a large delegation to Arizona for this weekend's mass protests and National Day of Action to Stop the Criminalization of Our Communities. Thousands of people concerned about justice from around the US as well as tens of thousands of Arizonans are expected to take to the streets for the massive protest in Arizona's capitol.

Similar legislation to SB 1070 has recently been introduced in 13 other states. This is an important time for us all to stand up and be counted.

Fifty Years Ago, by Charles "Chuck" Siler

May 26th is a special day in my life. Fifty years ago, I was a part of the graduating class at McKinley High in Baton Rouge. We broke the peace. This was back in the good old days for some and the beginning of the end of segregation in that city. In March of that year, Students from Southern University had begun sit in and a mass march had upset the applecart and joined the protests that were being mounted around the south.

When the news broke our campus was put on “lock down.” There was a disturbance in the force of racism.

Some of us at McKinley and a few from other schools were anxious to join the growing movement and do something. We had to determine what. That took time because we were close to finishing and there were subtle threats that indicated we could suddenly find us expelled. Things turned serious.

A few of our teachers explained the motivation behind the sit-ins and the protest march led by Southern students. The names Marvin Robinson, Donald Moss and Major Johns come to mind. Students from the Southern University Laboratory School, Capitol Avenue and Scotlandville were talking but it took time before there was any action.

Betty Jones, Enola Price, Moses Edwards and Theodis Washington were the names of my classmates that come to mind at this writing. We discussed ideas and made plans for direct action that could be taken.

We were flying under the radar so our tests went unnoticed at first. Ultimately, our target became the State Library system.

The City-Parish system was closed to us and we tried to secure cards and admission, we were refused. We were referred to Carver Branch Library and reminded that our schools had libraries. Of course, much of what we needed wasn’t present at that time because separate wasn’t equal. The books supplied to Carver and McKinley’s school library were inadequate to our educational needs. That didn’t matter to the white administrators who still held to the belief that we didn’t need an education to be subordinate to them. Mrs. Bennett (Carver) and Ms. Ampey (McKinley) tried to obtain those books that would benefit us and did a better job than most. I assisted in the school library and know that Ms. Ampey sometimes went into her own pocket to find books that we needed. Mrs. Bennett at Carver was familiar with me because during the summer when it was hot, the library was the coolest place, literally, to read. We, then, targeted the State Library and, again, were refused. This gave us the evidence that we needed to justify further action.

May came and our efforts went unnoticed because they were isolated incidents and we didn’t protest loudly. We continued planning and considered a plan that would work and protect us from the possibility of expulsion, deciding to wait until we had finished our final examinations and were cleared for graduation. There were enough activities going on to help cover our plans during that period as we prepared for the big day.

Once examinations were finished, class ranks were determined and those who would be getting scholarship assistance to attend college had been established. Most of those who participated were among the top students in our class. We didn’t want the underclassmen to risk their futures because, technically, we were finished with our high school studies. Then things hit the fan.

At first, the pickets were cited on the radio news. There were the usual growls and threats from our “leaders” but we returned with our signs. I recall that some of the guys in Mr. Poydras’ art class were among those who made the signs that we carried and slipped out of school to use when we marched in front of the downtown library. My family realized when I was involved when I appeared in the line carrying a picket sign.

Naturally intimidation was attempted and we were threatened with expulsion and denial of our right to graduation. I will never forget a comment that flew from (I think it was Moses) when we were told that we wouldn’t be allowed to march. “Who are you going to give our scholarships to?”

The look on Mr. Thomas’ (our principal) face was worth all of the effort that had been made. We left and someone else commented, “I think Julius was upset.” We had a good laugh and went on planning.

(PHOTO: Freedom marchers cross the Amite river on their way from Bogalusa to the state capitol in Baton Rouge).

Then threats were made against others who were not involved and we did have commitment to family and classmates. It only delayed the inevitable though we backed off. The NAACP Youth council was formed and many of us became a part of that organization because we were going to be some of those that caused some to declare that “Negroes Ain’t Acting like Colored People.”

There were other quiet efforts, such as our attempts to enter Louisiana State University, which were rejected because we didn’t mark the box labeled “race” and/or the information that indicated the schools that we had attended. The real reason being – we were not white. Our test scores show that we were damn well qualified but not to attend the states’ “flagship” university.

Eddie Brown was one of my heroes because he was involved in the leadership of the Southern University and an inspiration to many of us who had grown tired of the treatment. My friend Mayo Brew in Winnfield had Donald Moss as inspiration and wound up with a gun to his head for attempting to integrate the library in his hometown.

It was a time when I gained respect for those teachers who supported us quietly and encouraged us to keep on “keeping on.” I lost respect for many of those who declared their Christianity but were too frightened to be radical like their “lord and savior” who was, according to their bible, crucified because of his efforts. It was a time when I began to question my faith and began a search for truth that led me to my current philosophical place.

In 2003, while at the State Museum, Sailor Jackson and I pulled together a program on the 50th Anniversary of the Baton Rouge Bus Boycott. I was invited to be a speaker at LSU as part of a panel discussing that event. I talked about other heroes – Willis V. Reed being one of mine because of his unflagging resistance to, and understanding of the depth of racism in our society.

I also noted that LSU did me a favor by refusing me because, had they not, I would never had received the nurturing that was available at Southern – Felton Grandison notwithstanding. It was there that I met Adolph Reed, Sr., Huel Perkins, Henry Cobb, Roscoe Leonard, Ray Lockett, Ruby Henton and others who didn’t quit encouraging me to be the best despite what we faced away from the school environment.

I can recall the “deep” discussion that Hubert Brown and I had hitchhiking home from campus at a time when even that simple act was dangerous if you were black. Hubert became “H Rap” and was railroaded into the federal penitentiary system as Imam Jamil Addullah. I, for one, found enough holes in the lies told about him to never believe him guilty.

I’m older and still cynical. Many of those on my cartoon list respond and let me know when I’m “on target.” I am still an enemy of the systemic racism that is pervasive and ongoing despite those who claim that we are in a “post racial society”. I’m not one who believes that lie.
When I was a part of the initial development of the State Civil Rights Museum, I discovered that I was “too radical” for those who were “politically white” because I am, politically, “black.”

I am one who believes that more than ever we need our Historically Black Colleges and Universities to help insure and validate our identities. I recall that my son, while an undergraduate at Xavier, enjoyed being Daniel – NOT a “minority” or “member of a group” but an individual. In graduate school he won’t be one of those who buys the lie because we have tried to make sure that he know who he IS.

After fifty years, WHO I AM is still a part of the discovery process that is life.

I can’t remember all of the names of those who fought and, hopefully, are still doing so in their own way. I hope that this spurs members of my class and generation to write something down for their children and grandchildren to have as a part of the personal arsenals that they will need to continue the fight against the pervasive ignorance that works against our efforts to propel this nation and world forward.

May 26th is an important day in my life. It’s a time for reflection on the natal date of my Aunt Sadie, my brother/friend J. Nash and to celebrate being wedded to my wife and fellow warrior.

Local and National Coalition Sponsors Right To Return Weekend

Survivors Village, Mayday New Orleans, and other activists concerned about housing are sponsoring a series of actions this weekend as part of the national month of action sponsored by a national coalition sponsored by the Miami organization Take Back The Land.

According to an announcement for the weekend of events:
Five years after the failure of the government-sponsored levee system flooded 80% of New Orleans, over 150,000 people are still not home. Many of them were Black and poor.

Many former residents of New Orleans have chosen not to come home for many different reasons, but the residents of public housing did not have the opportunity to choose. All but one of the public housing developments were first surrounded by 10 feet barbed wire fencing, then eventually demolished.

Residents were promised new improved neighborhoods, with less density and more amenities. We know know that this was all lies. The former residents of these developments have been given vouchers that are worthless except to slum landlords that are now making great profits by renting substandard housing to poor people. The new upgraded housing is being reserved for the middle class, whites, students, and police officers! Most of the former residents are being excluded. The people who were living on this land have an unconditional right to return to their former homes.
Below is the schedule of this weekend's events, some of which will involve nonviolent direct action.

Day 1: Friday May 28, 12:00 noon.
Right to Return Rally/Protest: Let the People In!

Day 2: Saturday May 29, 9:00am.
Action against land grabs by developers & crooks! Our Communities Our Responsibility. All vacant land should be developed by the community for the community!

Day 3: Sunday May 30, 9:00am.
Action to fight against the problem of homelessness.
60,000 vacant buildings, 20,000 people homeless!! End homelessness Now!

All actions located at the 3800 block St. Bernard Ave.

Survivors Village is affiliated with the national Take Back The Land Movement. Right to Return Weekend co-sponsored by Mayday New Orleans.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Memorial Day 2010: Corporations Profit from Permanent War, By Bill Quigley

US law officially proclaims Memorial Day “as a day of prayer for permanent peace.”

However, the US is much closer to permanent war than permanent peace. Corporations are profiting from wars and lobbying politicians for more. The US, and the rest of the world, cannot afford the rising personal and financial costs of permanent war.

Number One in War

No doubt, the USA is number one in war. This coming year the US will spend 708 billion dollars on war and another $125 billion for Veterans Affairs – over $830 billion. In a distant second place is China which spent about $84 billion on its military in 2008.

The US also leads the world in the sale of lethal weapons to others, selling about one of every three weapons worldwide. The USA’s major clients? South Korea, Israel and United Arab Emirates.

Our country has 5 percent of the world’s population but accounts for more than 40% of the military spending for the whole world.


Our nation does not respect our soldiers by engaging in permanent war. War is grinding up our children. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have cost over 5000 US lives and tens of thousands more lives of people in those countries. Over 20% of those in our military who served in these two wars, 320,000 people, have war-related traumatic brain injuries. Suicide rates are up by 26 percent among 18 to 29 year old male veterans in the latest Veterans Administration study. Mental health hospitalizations are now the leading cause of hospital admissions for the military, higher than injuries. On any given night, over 100,000 veterans are homeless and living on our nation’s streets.

Rising Costs of War

Since 2001, the US has spent over $6 trillion (a trillion is a million millions) on war and preparations for war. That is about $20,000 for every woman, man and child in the US. Iraq and Afghanistan alone have cost the US taxpayer over a trillion dollars since 2001.

No End in Sight

Earlier this month, Marine General James Cartwright, the Vice-Chair of the military Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Army Times that the US can expect continuing war “for as far as the eye can see.”

In the name of this perpetual war against terrorism the US still jails hundreds without trial in Guantanamo, holds hundreds more in prisons on bases and in secret detention world-wide, tries to avoid constitutional trials for anyone accused of terrorism, admits it is trying to assassinate an American citizen Muslim cleric in Yemen, and launches deadly drone strikes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen killing civilians and suspects whenever we decide.

Who benefits from permanent war?

One support for permanent war is that there are corporations in the US which openly lobby for more and more money to be invested in war. Why? Because they profit enormously from government contracts.

President Dwight Eisenhower, who believed in a strong military, warned the US about just this in his farewell address to the nation in 1961.

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.”

War is Big Business

War is very big business. People know that private companies are doing much more in war. In January 2010, the Congressional Research Service reported that there are at least 55,000 private armed security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, and maybe many more - as many as 70,000 in Afghanistan alone.

But much bigger money is available to defense contractors. In 2008 alone, the top ten defense contractors received nearly $150 billion in federal contracts. These corporations spent millions to lobby for billions more in federal funds and hired ex-military leaders and ex-officials to help them profit off war.

For example, look at the top three defense contractors, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman. They demonstrate why perpetual war is profitable and part of the reason it continues.

Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin is the largest military contractor in the world with 140,000 employees, taking in over $40 billion annually, over $35 billion of which comes from the US government. Lockheed Martin boasts that they have increased their dividend payments by more than 10 percent for the seventh consecutive year – perfectly in line with the increase in war spending by the US. Its chairman, Robert Stevens, received over $72 million in compensation over the past three years.

Lockheed’s board of directors includes a former Under Secretary of Defense, a former US Air Force Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, a former Deputy Director of Homeland Security, and a former Supreme Allied Commander of Europe. These board members receive over $200,000 a year in compensation. Its political action committee gave over a million dollars a year to federal candidates in 2009, and is consistently one of the top spending PACs in the US. They appeal to all members of Congress because they strategically have operations in all fifty states. And, since 1998, Lockheed has spent over $125 million to lobby Congress.

Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman is a $33 billion company with 120,000 employees. In 2008, it received nearly $25 billion in federal contracts. Its chairman, Ronald Sugar, received over $54 million in compensation over the past three years.

Northrop’s Board includes a former Admiral of the Navy, a former 20 year member of Congress, a former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a former commissioner of the Security and Exchange Commission and a former U.S. Naval officer. The members of its board of directors received over $200,000 each in 2009. Its Pac is listed as making over $700,000 in federal campaign donations in 2009. Since 1998, it has spent over $147 million lobbying Congress.


Boeing has 150,000 employees and took in over $23 billion in federal contracts in 2008. With revenues of $68 billion in 2009, its chair, James McNerney, was paid over $51 million over the past three years. Its board members are paid well over $200,000 a year. Boeing’s directors include a former U.S. Secretary of Commerce, a former White House chief of staff, a former vice chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a former U.S. Ambassador and U.S. Trade Representative. It hosts the 10th largest political action committee, giving away more than one million dollars to federal candidates in 2009. Since 1998, it has spent $125 million lobbying Congress.

Time to Terminate the Permanent War

These corporations take billions from the government and profit from our perpetual state of war. They recycle some of that money back into lobbying the same people who gave it to them, and hire ex-military and government officials to help smooth the process. Their leaders make tens of millions off this work.

The trillions of dollars that it costs to wage permanent war are taxing the US economy. Yet where are the voices in Congress, Democrat or Republican, that talk seriously of dramatically reducing our military spending? President Obama and the Democrats are effectively continuing the permanent war policies of the Bush years. It is past time for change.

Remember this Memorial Day that, while thousands have been laid in their graves and hundreds of thousands wounded, private military contractors are prospering and profiting as the business of war booms.

The US should not only remember its dead but work to reverse the profitable permanent war that promises to add more names to the dead and disabled in this country and around the world.

Bill is Legal Director at the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. He can be reached at

Friday, May 21, 2010

Street Law Classes Launch Legal Training Program

From our friends at Voice Of The Ex-offender (V.O.T.E.):
Earlier this year VOTE began its Street Law series designed to educate people of all ages about their constitutional rights in the criminal justice system. The Street Law Class is broken up into three lessons and covers 4th Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure, explaining the difference between what the police are supposed to do by law and what they usually do in everyday routine encounters. The instructors, all Formerly Incarcerated Persons with decades of legal knowledge, cover Terry Stops, Miranda Rights and Probable Cause, among other topics. Participants also learn the do’s and don’ts of police encounters and the basics of court proceedings.

The Street Law Class is the first part of VOTE’s 3 part Legal Training Program. In June, VOTE will host a Legal Research Class that instructs participants in how to procure information about an individual’s case from Docket Master, how to read court documents and how to use a law library. This class is not only designed to help individuals research legal issues that are directly impacting them, but also how to use these research skills to help fellow members of their community such as family, neighbors and friends. The Legal Research Class will be held in June during 1 to 2.

The Legal Research Class is a pre-requisite for V.O.T.E.’s Paralegal Training Program which is slated to begin in July. This 10 week course will be intensive job training specifically for FIPs or their immediate family members. Participants will be trained and mentored by FIPs who work in the legal field on reading legal documents, brief writing, in-depth legal research and other necessary skills for a successful career as a paralegal. VOTE is currently recruiting attorneys who will commit to contracting with the graduates of the Paralegal Training Program.

For more information on these classes, or to sign up, contact VOTE at (504) 943-1901.

VOTE is an organization dedicated to building the political power of people most impacted by the criminal justice system, especially formerly incarcerated persons (FIPs,) their families and loved ones. Through leadership development, community education and voter mobilization, VOTE will ensure that our constituents are at the center of transforming the criminal justice system.

Friday, May 14, 2010

New Orleans Higher Education Consortium: More Hostile Takeover Than Cooperative Endeavor

This statement was prepared by the Save UNO Coalition.

Members of the SAVE UNO coalition (a group of concerned students, faculty, staff, and alumni of UNO), write to express opposition to plans outlined in a recent proposal of unknown origin to create a New Orleans Higher Education Consortium (NOHEC) consisting of the University of New Orleans (UNO), Southern University of New Orleans (SUNO), and Delgado Community College.

The proposal promises that the consortium will make available new paths to success for local students, but we are most skeptical about these claims. We find the proposal heavy-handed and more like a hostile takeover that will gut SUNO and restrict access to higher education than a cooperative model that will improve public higher education in New Orleans.

The proposal has all the elements of a hostile takeover of SUNO: break up the target; sell off valuable assets; change operating procedures; and raid its cash reserves. The break up involves elimination of the library, student center, and many academic programs at SUNO, tearing down SUNO’s historic south campus and selling the land to raise money to buy land on the south side of UNO’s main campus to build a new NOHEC campus.

Changes in operating procedures include new admissions standards and creation of joint admissions and counseling centers to track students through a maze of new courses and programs available to select students from each college. The raiding of cash reserves involves re-direction of what’s left of $92 million in federal aid to SUNO granted since 2005, including $32 million in federal grants secured by SUNO in 2009 to re-build the original campus. Our concerns about this matter are serious enough that the proposed consortium should be re-framed as a hostile takeover, and we oppose such a takeover.

An Historically Black College Is Undermined:

The break-up of SUNO deprives New Orleans of an historically black college that has stood for decades as a beacon of opportunity for local residents. SUNO is part of the Southern University system, Louisiana's Historically Black Colleges and University (HBCU) system founded in 1880 when there was little public education available for Black people. SUNO was established in 1956 when Louisiana public education was still legally segregated. It also serves as an anchor of Pontchartrain Park, the first housing sub-division in New Orleans designed for Blacks.

While legal segregation in education and housing has ended, Louisiana still does not have equal access to either quality education or housing. Indeed, in a city that was two-thirds Black before Katrina, only 24% of UNO students are Black.

The NOHEC proposal leaves SUNO with a new north campus that offers “a limited number of degree programs,” has no library, student center, or recreation facilities. Such a campus hardly retains its separate academic integrity. Absorbing SUNO into UNO and Delgado means fewer African Americans will have access to higher education in Louisiana.

Demolition of Rebuilt Homes:

The NOHEC proposal states that SUNO’s original Pontchartrain Park campus will be torn down and sold. Proceeds of that sale will be used to acquire new land south of the UNO main campus where the new NOHEC campus will be built. The proposal goes on to state that these land transactions will benefit revitalization of both the Gentilly and Pontchartrain Park neighborhoods.

The proposal to redesign public higher education institutions in New Orleans would actually have a disastrous impact on a largely residential neighborhood located adjacent to the UNO Main Campus that has been substantially rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina. Known variously as Burbank Gardens and St. Anthony, this part of the Gentilly neighborhood is bounded by Leon C. Simon Drive on the north, Elysian Fields Avenue on the east, Robert E. Lee Boulevard on the south, and the London Avenue Canal on the west. Comprised mostly of residential duplexes, it once served as officers’ housing for the Naval Air Station that occupied the current UNO site during and following World War II.

Ravaged by major flooding during Katrina, this neighborhood has largely rebuilt over the past four and half years. These homes, along with four businesses on Elysian Fields Avenue, and the New Orleans Mosquito, Termite and Rodent Control office make up the site – all of which likely face demolition under the NOHEC proposal.

Area residents interviewed responded with disbelief regarding proposed plans for their neighborhood. Several remarked that they have worked hard to re-build their homes – and want to stay. While university officials state that there is a glut of housing available, relatively few are duplexes and none are nearby.

Neighborhood Statistics – Preliminary visual survey method

A visual survey of the area was made April 26, 2010 by K. Brad Ott, Masters of Arts Candidate, Department of Sociology, University of New Orleans. Questions or comments welcome:

201 lots with homes before Hurricane Katrina
154 houses repaired and occupied (permanent electric meter inspection)
13 houses undergoing restoration
13 houses unrepaired or just gutted
20 vacant lots
129 of the total are two family (duplexes) repaired and occupied
10 of the total are two family (duplexes) undergoing renovation
7 of the total are two family (duplexes) unrepaired or just gutted
4 businesses (3 of which are repaired, with 2 in operation; 1 unrepaired).

Summary of Objections to NOHEC Proposal:

We have serious questions about proposed changes in admissions standards and procedures at all three schools.

The consortium raises admissions standards at UNO and SUNO, which makes them less accessible, and it tracks less well qualified students to Delgado. Prospective students will be directed to the appropriate “campus” and courses by new joint admissions and counseling services.

Recent reductions in counseling services at UNO make us skeptical that adequate funding will be available to serve these students. We also wonder which programs will be available and which programs will not be available for students tracked into SUNO and Delgado.

We are also skeptical that “some renovation dollars” can transform Bienville Hall on the UNO campus into anything close to a respectable complex for SUNO and Delgado administrators to run the NOHEC campus.

The question of how to pay for the NOHEC consortium returns us to the issue of raiding assets after a hostile takeover. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano delivered a $32 million federal aid program in August 2009 that she said was put together for SUNO and which underscores a commitment to re-build the Pontchartrain Park campus. What will happen to these funds under the NOHEC plan? What will become of the SUNO library and five other buildings that are under renovation, and that we are supposedly obligated to repair, not demolish? This includes the old and new science buildings, the Clark Education Building, and the Multi-Purpose Student Center on the original SUNO campus. Will these assets be re-directed to NOHEC?

We conclude that, while serious discussion is desirable about how best to reform higher education in Louisiana, the NOHEC proposal is not an appropriate path to follow. It amounts to a takeover of SUNO by UNO and presents too many unanswered questions to benefit Delgado.

Save UNO Coalition contacts: Jessie Jacobs:; phone: (608) 332-5947, Vern Baxter:; phone: (504) 280-7312.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Taking Back Homes from the Banks: Exercising the Human Right to Housing, By Bill Quigley

May has seen an upsurge in local organizations exercising their human rights to housing. Most people recognize that international human rights guarantee all humans a right to housing. With the millions of homeless living in our communities and the millions of empty foreclosed houses all across our communities, groups have decided to put them together.

Organizations across the US are engaging in “housing liberation” and “housing defense” to exercise their human rights to housing. Here are a few examples.


In Madison Wisconsin, the grass-roots organization Operation Welcome Home helped Desiree Wilson, 24, a mother with small children to move into a vacant house, hook up utilities and change the locks, according to in Madison. The home was vacant due to foreclosure. Bank of America owns the home now. “It’s not against the law, “said Ms. Wilson. “This is above the law. It’s just so much bigger than me. Housing is a human right.”

Operation Welcome Home held a press conference criticizing the billions of dollars in bailouts to mortgage lenders. “We’re asking them to turn over the property to the community whose tax dollars are funding what they are doing.” One of the spokespersons for the group, Z!Haukness, reminded people that “housing is a human right, no matter what income, no matter what rental history.” The group plans more “liberations” of other vacant property.

A local land trust, Madison Area Community Land Trust, says if the activists convince the bank to donate the home the trust can find the resources to turn it into affordable housing. Taking over the vacant foreclosed property is “a brave move” says Michael Carlson of the Madison trust. Carlson told the Madison Cap Times “They’re compelling the citizens of Dane County to confront the very real contradictions in the way we provide housing – massive surpluses in the market that led to a collapse in credit and simultaneously people without shelter and permanent affordable housing.”


A Toledo, Ohio, factory worker, Keith Sadler lost his home of 20 years at a foreclosure sale for $33,000. When it came time to be evicted, Keith had had enough. According to the, he and 6 friends barricaded the house up to resist the foreclosure eviction. All were all members of the Toledo Foreclosure Defense League. After 5 days the house was raided by the local SWAT team and all were arrested on misdemeanor charges and released.


In Portland, Oregon, a local group, Right 2 Survive, seized control of vacant land in front of an abandoned school. They set up tents for the un-housed. “This is a celebration because we are taking our rights back, “ Julie McCurdy told Take Back the Land. “What we’re doing is coming up with the solutions tailored for our community. We are tired of waiting for city hall to come up with revised plans and rehashed ordinances that do not meet the needs of un-housed Portlanders.”

Sacramento, Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta

A faith-based group has been moving families into vacant homes in Sacramento. The Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign moved a family into a vacant home in Philadelphia. The Chicago Anti-eviction Campaign marched to protect a family from eviction and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement protested auctions of family homes on the county courthouse steps of Atlanta. Other community actions across the country are expected during the rest of May.

Housing as a Human Right

Housing is a human right recognized by a number of international human rights laws. For example, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted after the Second World War, promised “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood.”

Still, the National Coalition for the Homeless estimates of the number of homeless people in the US range from 1.6 to 3.5 million.

Foreclosures are soaring. Some housing experts say 4 million foreclosures are possible in 2010. There were 3.4 million homes which got foreclosure notices, auction sale notices or bank repossessions in 2009. In the first quarter of 2010, RealtyTrac reported there were 932,000 foreclosures. Auctions were scheduled on 369,000 homes in the same time. Banks repossessed 257,000 homes during that time

Organizations working to exercise peoples’ human rights to housing include Take Back the Land and the US Human Rights Network. Both are working with local community organizations to support their campaigns.

Bill is Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and a Professor of Law at Loyola University New Orleans. His email is

Monday, May 10, 2010

Assassination of U.S. Muslim Cleric is Illegal, Immoral and Unwise, By Bill Quigley

Agents of the United States are openly trying to assassinate Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a US citizen, while he is in hiding in Yemen. Despite what the apologists for assassination argue this is illegal, immoral and unwise.

Assassinating Awlaki in the US would be murder, a capital crime, punishable by life in prison or even the death penalty. Morally, few would argue that agents of the FBI or the CIA could murder the cleric in the US. If it is illegal and immoral to kill a Muslim cleric in the US why would it be legal, moral or wise to do so in Yemen?

The Imam, who lived in the US for more than two decades, is accused of using his powerful speaking and teaching skills on behalf of terrorism. Authorities say he was in e-mail contact with the Army Major arrested for killing 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas. He is loosely linked to the Nigerian Christmas bomber. The Times Square SUV bomber is reported to have listened to the cleric’s online lectures.

Assassination has been illegal since 1976.

In 1976 U.S. President Gerald Ford issued Executive Order 11905, Section 5(g) states “No employee of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, political assassination.” President Reagan followed up to make the ban clearer in Executive Order 12333. Section 2.11 of that Order states “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” Section 2.12 further says “Indirect participation. No agency of the Intelligence Community shall participate in or request any person to undertake activities forbidden by this Order.”

The reason for the ban on assassinations was that the CIA was involved in attempts to assassinate national leaders opposed by the US. Among others, US forces sought to kill Fidel Castro of Cuba, Patrice Lumumba of the Congo, Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, and Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam.

Since 2001, the US has returned to the assassination business. Along with its many other illegal actions, the Bush-Cheney administration revived the use of murder to eliminate political opponents across the world.

How can murder be allowed? The Congressional Research Service published a review of the ban on assassinations in 2002. The review weakly suggested “it might be sufficient” to interpret the War Power resolutions passed by Congress after September 11, 2001 as legal authority to allow assassinations outside the U.S. However, Congress authorized no war against Yemen, no military strikes against anyone in Yemen, nor authorized any assassination of anyone anywhere.

Defenders of assassination argue that murder is a legal part of the US strategy of “pre-emptive self-defense” authorized by Congress after 9-11. Under this argument, the US government is allowed to decide who represents a possible threat to our nation anywhere anytime and then exterminate them before they can damage the US. They also argue that the decision to target someone for assassination is legally secret. Because any threat to the US triggers these powers, under this line of argument, the US is in a permanent war state and has these powers forever.

This is perfect for the apologists for assassination because the government alone is thus investigator, prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner. The public will never know because the government can do all this in secret. And since the war against terrorism is permanent, the government can murder people forever.

Thus the last traces of the rule of law evaporate. There is no transparency because no one gets to know. There is no accountability because the executive has unchecked authority.

Does anyone think the US would approve other nations acting like this? Would it be acceptable or even arguably legal for Iran or China or Israel or France to secretly decide who their enemies are and then execute them in the US if they find them here?

Apologists for assassination ease the way for the US to kill anyone anywhere anytime. What is then the logical next step in this argument? If we can secretly kill US citizens who we decide are our enemies outside the US, why not inside the US? And why not keep that secret as well?

The US cannot be allowed to continue to exercise secret authority to murder people. If the Bush administration was doing this as openly as the Obama administration is, people would be vocal about its illegality, immorality and its lack of wisdom.

Murdering anyone in the US is a criminal act that is prosecuted regularly in courts across this country. Why should secret cold-blooded murder by government forces outside the US be treated any differently?

Bill is Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and Professor at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. He can be reached at

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Community Organizers Congratulate Mayor Landrieu for Important Step Towards Reform of New Orleans Police Department

Mayor Landrieu Invites U.S. Department of Justice Assistance

Leaders from more than two dozen community organizations applaud Mayor Landrieu's invitation to the U.S. Department of Justice to intervene to enforce reforms and provide monitoring and oversight of the New Orleans Police Department.

For the past year, and then most frequently in the last two months, New Orleans advocates and concerned citizens have been meeting to discuss ways in which to involve the US Department of Justice Office of Civil Rights in systemic reform of the New Orleans Police Department. During a meeting on April 14, 2010, a group of advocates gathered at the LJI Office to discuss a campaign strategy for requesting U.S. Department of Justice intervention for the monitoring and supervision of the New Orleans Police Department. All in attendance agreed that hiring a new New Orleans Police Superintendent was not sufficient to force reform within the department.

On Tuesday, May 4, over two dozen organizations signed a letter addressed to Mr. Thomas E. Perez, Esq. Assistant Attorney General - Office of Civil Rights, requesting that the United States Department of Justice intervene in the reform of the NOPD through utilization of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which authorizes the Department of Justice to file civil lawsuits against law enforcement agencies that engage in a pattern of violating people's rights and obtain a court order to monitor and reform them.

Less than 24 hours later, Mayor Landrieu met with 16 of these leaders and 6 attorneys from the US Department of Justice, and then announced that he has invited the Justice Department to come to New Orleans and perform an assessment of the NOPD and the criminal justice system. Mayor Landrieu anticipates this assessment will eventually lead to a consent decree and federal oversight for the New Orleans Police Department.

None of this work would have been possible without the sacrifices and organizing committed organizing of criminal justice advocates and concerned New Orleans residents who have worked together for years. Moreover, this final community push for a judicially binding consent agreement could not have happened without the courageous leadership of those 26 groups and equal number of individuals who signed the May 4 letter to Mr. Perez. Most important, this effort marks a tremendous victory for community organizers, who work tirelessly to insure everyone's voice is heard when public policy is made. With less than 2 hours notice, 16 individuals gathered to meet with Mayor Landrieu and Justice Department attorneys. "We hope the meeting marks a fundamental change in how our local government interacts with the community. There was mutual respect in that room. Everyone was able to express the pain of past dealings with NOPD and our dysfunctional criminal justice system here in New Orleans, and then commit to each other to work collaboratively in the future," commented Barbara Major.

Those attending the meeting: Bertrain Butler - New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian Council; Lucas Diaz - Puentes NOLA; Ken Foster and Baty Landis - Silence is Violence; Norris Henderson - V.O.T.E.; Robert Horton and Ronald McCoy - Black Men United for Change; Allen James and Robert Goodman - Safe Street/Strong Communities; Mary Howell; Mary Joseph - Children's Defense Fund; Carol Kolinchak - Juvenile Justice Project Louisiana; Barbara Major; Jacques Morial and Tracie Washington - Louisiana Justice Institute; and Malcolm Suber - American Friends Service Committee.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

When Abuse is the Norm, by M. Endesha Juakali, J.D.

Recently there was a controversy surrounding the transition task force charged with assisting in finding a new police chief for New Orleans. Our city's new mayor, Mitch Landrieu, declared a national search to find the best available person for the job of police chief. According to him, this is a fresh new approach and his task force allowed a cross section of the community to have input in the decision making process. However, four of the community persons from the transition task force resigned or were forced out.

The reality of the situation is this process is old hat and the community involvement is only window dressing for him to hide behind. The community will have no real power to impact this decision. Therefore, honest community representatives had only two choices: participate in this charade or resign and expose it. I applaud the choice of the four who refused to go along and be silent.

In tandem with this process of internal selection, there is another farce being perpetrated on the citizens of New Orleans. This is the selection of a so-called police monitor, which is supposed to give citizens some extra protection from police abuse by having an independent monitor to investigate the actions of the police.

The problem is, like the task force mentioned above, the police monitor has no real power. It cannot even investigate the police, but can only “review the New Orleans police department's internal investigation of misconduct cases to determine if they were properly conducted." This means they will only see what the police department gives them. They have no independent investigation power, no subpoena powers, no arrest powers, and no powers to take police off the streets. In short, they have no powers at all, except the power to come to work and get paid.


I remember thinking recently that I was having a flashback when I watched some well-meaning community groups fight in the city council chamber for an entity to oversee police actions. This was not a new request, just as the most recent spate of police murder is not a recent occurrence or an aberration.

In going forward with trying to change the NOPD, we must accept two major facts:

1) The brutal actions by the New Orleans police department is not the work of a few bad apples on an otherwise good group of hard working individuals. Brutality and the deprivation of the rights of the black/poor is ingrained into the fiber and history of the NOPD.
2) The police cannot police themselves, and any entity that is not totally independent of both the police department and government will ultimately become a part of the problem, not the solution.


I began organizing against police brutality in 1980, when a police officer named Gregory Neupert was found on a levee in Algiers shot to death. There has never been a satisfactory explanation as to why he was on a dark levee by himself with no legitimate reason, with no back-up and without the knowledge of his bosses. But his fellow officers did not need a reason. In their minds, someone in the black community killed one of them and they intended to get some payback.

Almost immediately, the entire black community in Algiers was under siege. People were beaten, kidnapped, and tortured. Based upon the information received from the use of torture, police raids led to the murder of four people in Algiers, three men and one young mother who was shot through the eye with a 357 magnum revolver and in the chest with a shotgun loaded with double ought buckshot. She was shot while naked, unarmed and in front of her 4 year old son. During that same period unarmed black men were killed in the French Quarter and the Desire community. In fact, in a very short period of time 11 people had been killed by the police, in different parts of the city, following the death of Officer Neupert.

In response to this war that had been declared on the black community by NOPD, we created the Committee for Accountable Police (CAP), a united front of family members, neighbors, civic leaders, lawyers and activists.

I was one of the student leaders that helped organize on the college campuses. In fighting back, CAP had numerous marches, closed down the city council, closed down police headquarters, occupied the mayor's office for over a week, and sponsored a public hearing that packed the city council chambers with people testifying regarding the actions of NOPD, from 6pm in the evening until the sun came up the next day.

After months of protracted struggle, the following results were achieved:

1) The police chief, who was brought in from Alabama after an exhaustive national search, was forced to resign.
2) Seven police officers were indicted for civil rights violations and four were convicted.
3) The city created the Office Of Municipal Investigation, an independent agency to monitor the actions of the police department.
4) The city settled with the families of those murdered by police, paying out millions of dollars.


The reality of this situation is that none of the police officers who participated in these murders were convicted for what happened to Sherry Singleton and the other persons killed during this rampage. These officers were not even removed from the police force and continued having power over citizens. Many ended up being supervisors and passing on their unique form of policing to incoming officers.

The OMI became a part of the system and was totally controlled by the forces that supported the role of the police in New Orleans, In other words the police continued to police themselves.

I stated at that public hearing that: “the police policing the police is like having Dracula guarding a blood bank,” and I still feel the same way today. Since most of the police that went on a murder spree in 1980 are still on the police force now, what has happened since should not be a surprise.

I was not surprised when I heard that the police department used hurricane Katrina as an excuse to hunt and murder black people. The beating death of Adolph Archie was expected. Antoinette Franks, who murdered several citizens while pulling off a robbery and Len Davis, who put a hit out on a young black woman for filing a complaint against him, are par for the course for NOPD. Shooting a young black man 22 times for no obvious reason is not outside of the norm. What I saw and learned while organizing after the Algiers murders made me understand, it is the total relationship between the police and the black community that is the problem, it was then, and that hasn't changed.

In looking at the current situation, we have lost many of the reforms we fought for and won thirty years ago.

In the end, we must understand that the problems that exist between the police and the black community are ageless and systemic. The original police were the paddy rollers whose job it was to catch escaped slaves. The criminal justice system was given an exemption from the thirteenth amendment, using conviction of a crime as a way to re-enslave those being emancipated. Under this system, the police are supposed to be brutal, and fear is a tool of control.

If we are going to protect ourselves from the daily disrespect, abuses, and brutality of the police department, we must create an entity that is controlled by the community, that reports to the community, and is funded through the community. We need a version of the community policing model that was put in place by the Black Panther Party for Self Defense in Oakland 40 years ago. But instead of shotguns people need to be trained to use cameras and video to document the daily abuse,disrespect and violations of rights that goes on in the Black community countless times on a daily basis. This evidence would be delivered to a central place where people with knowledge of the law would formulate official complaints and make the case prior to turning it over to officials. This would be accompanied by exposing the info to progressive media sources prior to giving it to traditional media outlets.

The community must also be educated and organized on how to document what they see, such things as date, time, place, of incidents, car and badge numbers, and name addresses and telephone numbers of witnesses, of course none of this would be given to the police until it is processed and the persons involved are protected(from the police). Some will say that this would place people in harms way, since the police will not want to be filmed, photographed, or policed by the community. My, response is that we are all in harms way now, we must at least try to fight back.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Call for Unity in Defense of New Orleans Against Corporate Destruction, By Robert Desmarais Sullivan

After freely choosing to return to New Orleans in 2006 with expectation of helping reconstruct the City and after joyfully working with you all as we rebuilt, renewed, and recreated New Orleans, I'm saddened and shocked by two new man-made catastrophes:

Abandonment of the Historic Medical District and demolition of a Lower Mid-City neighborhood by the City Council, City Planning Commission, and Mayor,

AND contaminant pollution of the Gulf Coast, inland wetlands and possibly the City by an oil-rig leak, probably the result of budgetary skimping on the rig's construction, just as the Deluge of 2005 was the result of budgetary skimping on floodwall construction.

For my people, the Louisiana-French of the wetlands, who have lived there in what we have called "le paradis du monde" for two-hundred-fifty years, it may be the end of history as we know it. Loss of the wetlands was already advanced, and further losses due to the oil slick may not be sustainable.

I have concluded that the two political parties, Democrat and Republican, are not useful or helpful as they are. Republicans seem now to be neo-conservatives who say human beings live better with authoritarian government, and Democrats seem to be clueless. Both seem controlled by the financial and political rulers, intent on maximum profit instead of community well-being.

There are two sorts of politics: Morality politics and party politics. Law prohibits non-profits from participating in party politics, but it's beyond the scope of law to regulate morality politics.

Any non-profit that avoids morality politics is not worth the paper that created it. Any church that avoids morality politics may as well lock its doors. Any association that refuses morality politics is a waste of time.

In my sadness, fear and anger about the two catastrophes I mentioned -- destruction of the heart of New Orleans by poor urban planning designed to maximize profit for some public-private corporations AND destruction of the wetlands by poor oil-rig construction designed to maximize profit for British Petroleum -- I INVITE YOU TO A FORUM ON MORALITY POLITICS at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans, 5212 South Claiborne Avenue, on Tuesday evening, May 4, at 5:30.

Doors open at 5:00, and jambalaya and coffee will be served. Candida Shushan, a local leader of Move-On will be the introductory speaker. We will break into groups at some point to prioritize.

This is a community forum for all of us involved in morality politics, and we will insist the Forum retain this character. There will be a table for all groups that wish to bring literature: Move-On, C3, Progressive Democrats of America, Iraq Veterans Against War, and anyone else who wants space.

I propose we begin with the point of view that in our corporate economy -- which is not really free enterprise or capitalist -- the goal of maximizing profit at any cost has been devastating and dangerous to our common good. Hopefully we will pinpoint objectives we can work on together and determine courses of action to realize them, supporting one another and remaining in contact.

Robert Desmarais Sullivan is a Louisiana-French native of Lake Charles, Louisiana. Since the deluge he has become active in New Orleans' reconstruction.