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Rumors Running Wild: Post-Katrina Rumors and Their Affects on the Aftermath of the Storm Brian Malone and Moira Egler.

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Presentation on theme: "Rumors Running Wild: Post-Katrina Rumors and Their Affects on the Aftermath of the Storm Brian Malone and Moira Egler."— Presentation transcript:

1 Rumors Running Wild: Post-Katrina Rumors and Their Affects on the Aftermath of the Storm Brian Malone and Moira Egler

2 Katrina Background Katrina hits New Orleans on August 29, 2005 Levees on 17 th st Canal, Industrial Canal, and London Avenue Canal breech on August 30, 2009. All “back of town” neighborhoods are underwater, 80% of city floods 25,000 people had evacuated to the Superdome, the shelter of “last resort”, prior to the storm (Times- Picayune) Power throughout the city fails, creating a mass communication breakdown

3 Rumors Running Wild… “Rampant rumors of riots and armed gangs [are] running amuck.”-Times-Picayune, Sept. 1, 2005 "The tourists are walking around there, and as soon as these individuals see them, they're being preyed upon. They are beating them, they are raping them in the streets.”- Eddie Compass, 9/4/05 “Poor blacks and looters were murdering innocents and terrorizing whoever crossed their path in the dark, unprotected city” -The New York Times, 8/26/10

4 Chaos in the Dome

5 Rumors in the Dome The mass misery in the city's two unlit and uncooled primary shelters, the convention center and the Superdome, was compounded, officials said, by gangs that were raping women and children. - The New York Times, 9/25/05 “There are people who have been in that Superdome for 5 days watching dead bodies, watching hooligans killing people, raping people.” -Ray Nagin, from Law and Disorder “For the most part, it wasn’t a situation that was ever described in the media with just, you know, rampant chaos. That didn’t happen.” -Alex Ernst, NOPD Officer responsible for patrolling the Superdome “Whoever started that – and, of course, was responsible for reporting it, without checking with any of the Police Officers at the Superdome – I thought that was an injustice. And that was inexcusable.” -Alex Ernst "Any time you put 25,000 people under one roof, with no running water, no electricity and no information, stories get told.”- Lt. David Benelli, head of NOPD sex crimes unit

6 Martial Law Declaration: Fact or Fiction? Nagin declares martial law- 8/30/05 Gov. Kathleen Blanco declares state of emergency, allowing authorities to “suspend civil liberties”.States that martial law is unlawful and has not been declared. -The Times Picayune, 8/30/05 State of emergency allows “members of the [National] guard who knew policing…come in and show force” (Law and Disorder). Messages of both Blanco and Nagin misinterpreted by authorities-- rumors of violence, and police-inflicted violence continued. Rumors of violence, martital law significantly heighten anxiety within police force, possible contribute to shooting of innocents on Danzinger Bridge, Crescent City Connection

7 “Take Back the City” Rumors of heightened violence create sense of helplessness amongst police and civilians. (Law and Disorder) The lasting image of Hurricane Katrina had become “the looter,” and NOPD captain Warren Riley instructed the police force to “take back the city” (Law and Disorder). Police officers did not have a solid form of communication between each other or with anyone else, so as rumors intertwined with official orders, many cops interpreted taking the streets as having the authority to shoot-to-kill any law-violating civilian. Choas ensues, Rumors like the apparent “siege of the children’s hospital” by looters, the supposed “riot at the River Center,” and the alleged “snipers shooting at helicopters” arise.- The Times Picayune Shoot to Kill video:

8 Theory Worden - “This [police] culture emphasizes the danger and unpredictability of the work environment, the consequent dependence of officers on each other for assistance and protection, officers’ autonomy in handling situations, and the need to assert and maintain one’s authority.” Walker - “We assume that the typical crime is a violent crime, that the typical victim is white, and that the typical offender is African American or Hispanic.” Hobbes - “The state of nature is a state of all against all, punctuated by frequent violence, in which the participants correctly perceive themselves to be in constant danger.”

9 Improvements Establishment of legitimate emergency communication with backup - “ I f we learn anything from this, the federal government, on a military police aspect of this only, the federal government has got to step up to the plate and put a radio system in place that everybody could use” - NOPD Officer Anthony Canatella Stricter requirements for media to confirm rumors before reporting - “The media's willingness to report thinly attributed rumors may also have contributed to a kind of cultural wreckage that will not clean up easily.” - The New York Times, 9/19/05

10 More Improvements Evacuate majority of police force before the storm, leaving 400-500 Bring in evacuated police as back up Will eliminate number of lost cars, overall equiptment and resource loss “I personally think that we should evacuate the majority of our force, leaving probably 500, maybe 400, people here. But those 400 that stay have to be totally self-sufficient.” “Have assets that would go with the crew that’s leaving city and have assets here in the city. So, that way, if the assets you had in the city would fold, or you couldn’t use them, so that it creates this advantage: the assets that are coming in from out of the city with the reinforcements.” –Robert Norton, Commander of NOPD Bomb Squad and Dive Team

11 Conclusions Rumors of violence largely exaggerated after Katrina Martial law never lawfully declared, “shoot to kill” orders still ambiguous, Superdome violence, rapes were largely false Communication breakdown causes rumors to spread, be thought of as fact by many Police may have been influenced by rumors to enact violence on innocents. orleans/2005/09/01/1125302664655.html

12 Works Cited Anthony Canatella Oral History: Alex Ernst Oral Hisotry: Kavka, Gregory S. 1999.“Hobbe’s War of All Against All”. The Social Contract Theorists. Ed. Christopher W. Morris. 2-22. Walker, S. 1996. “Victims and Offenders: Myths and Realites about Crime”. Color of Justice: Race, Ethnicity and Crime in America. P. 24-59. Worden, R. 1959. “The Cases of Police Brutality: Theory and Evidence on Police Use of Force”. Police Violence: Understanding and Controlling Police Abuse of Force. Carr David. “More Horrible That Truth: News Reports.” The New York Times. Semptember 19, 2005. Retrieved: Channing, Joseph. “Police Chief Says He Exaggerated Post-Katrina Crime.” The New York Sun. August 21, 2006. Retrieved: Drew, Christopher and Jim Dwyer. “Fear Exceeded Crime’s Reality in New Orleans.” The New York Times. September 29, 2005. Retrieved: Lee, Trymaine. “Tales of Post-Katrina Violence Go from Rumor to Fact.” The New York Times. August 26, 2010. Retrieved: Times-Picayune. “Gun Shots, Death, Frustration.” Retrieved: Times-Picayune. “City Not Safe”. Retrieved: Times-Picayune. “Crime Jitters.” Retrieved: Law and Disorder. Documentary, Frontline, Pro-Publica. Retrieved:

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