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Interview: US Rep. McKinney on Katrina, Race, Class

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Message Matthew Cardinale

(APN) ATLANTA-"The government was not prepared at all to deal with the people who did not have the means to evacuate, and it still is not prepared to provide solutions to people whose lives have been completely displaced," US Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) told Atlanta Progressive News in a phone interview today.

US Rep. Cynthia McKinney talked with APN about her official findings about the roles of race and class into the government's response to Hurricane Katrina.

"What we learned was that the National Guard and the City [of New Orleans] requested buses, and FEMA held them up. If the Department Of Homeland Security (which oversees FEMA) had just done what it was asked to do," lives could have been saved and people could have been spared from suffering, the Congresswoman told Atlanta Progressive News. "It's just incredible."

"When [Louisiana Governor] Kathleen Blanco says 'Give me all you've got,' that means everything you've got! And that doesn't mean going back and itemizing five of these and two of those, and if she's doesn't use the proper form..." that the people of Louisiana won't receive anything, Rep. McKinney said. "It's ridiculous," Rep. McKinney said.

"As I pointed out in my remarks, the Hurricane Katrina was indiscriminate in both race and class in who it victimized. But the federal response wasn't indiscriminate, and that's the problem," Rep. McKinney said.

"Even as President Carter remarked, the world saw the faces of the hardest hit of the Katrina survivors and those faces pointed to race and class as still being issues in our country," the Congresswoman added.

The APN interview came on the heels of the Congresswoman's remarks on the US House Floor today, which were aired on C-SPAN, and the release of a report issued by the US House this week.

Rep. McKinney provided Congress with a 71 page special section of the report, entitled, "Supplementary Report on the Findings of the Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation For, and Response To, Hurricane Katrina."

The report is beautifully written, meticulously documented, and is an excellent resource for New Orleanians and other evacuees who want to know what the heck went wrong when they needed their government the most.

The report also makes numerous policy recommendations, including that FEMA should again become an independent agency reporting directly to the President. FEMA was subsumed under the Department of Homeland Security shortly after said Department's creation after September 11, 2001, which some argue led to a lack of attention to the threat of natural disasters and an abundance of attention to the threat of terrorist actors.

Other recommendations of the supplemental report include:

-Understanding that looting for food, water, and survival items may be necessary and it is cruel to shoot people on site for taking care of their basic needs.

-That transportation provisions need to be made for the elderly, infirm, and low-income.

-The need to protect the civil liberties of minorities in a disaster situation by clarifying the consequences against police and other public officials for violating such liberties.

-Clarifying the national response plan, including the respective roles of state and federal agencies.

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Matthew Cardinale is Editor of Atlanta Progressive News. He has written previously for the Sun-Sentinel Newspaper, Shelterforce Magazine, The Advocate Magazine, The San Francisco Bay View, and the Berkeley Daily Planet Newspaper. He has also (more...)
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