The new information should reframe our understanding of the catastrophe. Immediately after the storm, the media portrayed African-Americans as looters and thugs--Mayor Ray Nagin, for example, told Oprah Winfrey that "hundreds of gang members" were marauding through the Superdome. Now it's clear that some of the most serious crimes committed during that time were the work of gun-toting white males.
So far, their crimes have gone unpunished. No one was ever arrested for shooting Herrington, Alexander and Collins--in fact, there was never an investigation. I found this story repeated over and over during my days in New Orleans. As a reporter who has spent more than a decade covering crime, I was startled to meet so many people with so much detailed information about potentially serious offenses, none of whom had ever been interviewed by police detectives.
Hill, who runs Tulane's Southern Institute for Education and Research and closely follows the city's racial dynamics, isn't surprised the Algiers Point gunmen have eluded arrest. Because of the widespread notion that blacks engaged in looting and thuggery as the disaster unfolded, Hill believes, many white New Orleanians approved of the vigilante activity that occurred in places like Algiers Point. "By and large, I think the white mentality is that these people are exempt--that even if they committed these crimes, they're really exempt from any kind of legal repercussion," Hill tells me. "It's sad to say, but I think that if any of these cases went to trial, and none of them have, I can't see a white person being convicted of any kind of crime against an African-American during that period."
Read more on those seeking justice for New Orleans here.
Update, 12-21: The Zombie weighs in:
I don't doubt for one second that these incidents are true...but they are a drop in the bucket to the overall level of lawlessness and crime which occurred in the days following the Federal Flood. There are so many "incidents" which occurred in those days of horror, it just really peeves me to see a "national" (pun intended) reporter cherry pick incidents and call it "Katrina's Hidden Race War"
....gets your blood pumping doesn't it?
I've got an interview, on tape, with a young lady who was in the Dome who witnessed an elderly woman thrown over the walkway outside simply because "...she was a white woman". I've got interviews with people on Dumaine Street who told me of a band of men (African-American) with guns, a police officer included, who were systematically hunting down drug dealers and thugs in their neighborhood and killing them.
Point being....a lot of horrible things took place during that time. Were there white racists with guns shooting at people? I'm sure there were. Were there black racists with guns shooting at people? I'm sure there were.
Had Thompson framed this story as "Katrina's Hidden Vigilante War" I would have no problem with it because I think there were many, many vigilante incidents which went untold or unreported...one of the most egregious being a beheading of a child molester at the Convention Center (the headless body was actually shown underneath a blanket on CNN for a about a 10 hour period then the story mysteriously disappeared). And of course I don't have an issue with him reporting that there were white racists at Algiers point who were targeting African-Americans...that story needs to be told, and those assholes need to be prosecuted. But calling it a "Race War"....that's fucking insane and purposely inflammatory.....it's simply bad journalism.
Update, 12-22: Comments on the video from Varg, who resides on the west bank, and Mr. Clio are here.