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September 09, 2005

POLICE TRAPPED THOUSANDS IN NEW ORLEANS: This report from UPI seems to confirm the item I linked earlier:

Police from surrounding jurisdictions shut down several access points to one of the only ways out of New Orleans last week, effectively trapping victims of Hurricane Katrina in the flooded and devastated city. . . .

"We shut down the bridge," Arthur Lawson, chief of the City of Gretna Police Department, confirmed to United Press International, adding that his jurisdiction had been "a closed and secure location" since before the storm hit.

"All our people had evacuated and we locked the city down," he said. The bridge in question -- the Crescent City Connection -- is the major artery heading west out of New Orleans across the Mississippi River.

Lawson said that once the storm itself had passed Monday, police from Gretna City, Jefferson Parrish and the Louisiana State Crescent City Connection Police Department closed to foot traffic the three access points to the bridge closest to the West Bank of the river.

He added that the small town, which he called "a bedroom community" for the city of New Orleans, would have been overwhelmed by the influx.

"There was no food, water or shelter" in Gretna City, Lawson said. "We did not have the wherewithal to deal with these people."

"If we had opened the bridge, our city would have looked like New Orleans does now: looted, burned and pillaged."

But -- in an example of the chaos that continued to beset survivors of the storm long after it had passed -- even as Lawson's men were closing the bridge, authorities in New Orleans were telling people that it was only way out of the city.

An absolute disgrace. (Via Rogers Cadenhead). I renew my suggestion that the Civil Rights Division look into this, as there's some reason to think it was racially motivated.

UPDATE: This satellite photo shows the Crescent City Connection bridge as a "dry route to safety." (Compare with this map.) But it was a blocked dry route. So while the Red Cross was being kept out of New Orleans, refugees were being kept in.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's more on Chief Lawson. Meanwhile, reader Jim Chandler doubts there was racism involved: "Most of the police officers I've seen there are black, so where does the racial motivation come in?" The article suggests otherwise, but I don't know. I think DoJ should look into it, though.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's more on Chief Lawson. And here's an article that makes me wonder if he was worried about the fate of his video poker machines.

MORE: Bruce Rolston thinks that the New Orleans authorities are at fault.