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"That's not his privilege."
April 25, 2006 8:38 AM   Subscribe

"Turn it off man, I don't want no problems." Democracy Now attempts to interview Katrina evacuees at a FEMA trailer park. FEMA's private security guards claim that the residents don't have 'the privilege' of being able to speak freely on FEMA property without a FEMA 'minder' present.
posted by empath (64 comments total)

 
Katrina victims weren't exactly priveledged before, during nor after the storm. But hey, they've lucked out and they're having fun. Apparently.
posted by jsavimbi at 8:45 AM on April 25, 2006


FEMA and TSA: cocksuckers and motherfuckers.
posted by quonsar at 8:46 AM on April 25, 2006


a FEMA "minder"? is that like thought police?
posted by wakko at 8:47 AM on April 25, 2006


Hey, the Montanna Freemen were right all along, how 'bout them apples?
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:49 AM on April 25, 2006


Montana Freemen, as well. My FEMA/BILLALLRYKLINTON/UN tracking chip is jacking up my spellchecker, dontcha know...
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:50 AM on April 25, 2006


Wouldn't 'FEMA property' be government property, and therefore be under the obligation to abide by things like the 1st amendment?
posted by petri at 8:51 AM on April 25, 2006


I probably shouldn't have put minder in quotes. It's not the term that the guard used. I believe he said 'representative.'
posted by empath at 8:52 AM on April 25, 2006


I miss The Evil Empire.

We used to read about things like this happening in godless-communist-russia and think about how lucky we were to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Now we don't have those images to compare ourselves to.
posted by leftcoastbob at 8:55 AM on April 25, 2006


Democracy Now's article seems a lot like an article from a local Baton Rouge publication.
posted by The Radish at 8:57 AM on April 25, 2006


Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
Congress didn't make the law at the trailer park. FEMA made a rule. One the evacuees had to agree to in order to live there. The "free speech zone" is outside the park.

That's how rights are nibbled away.
posted by ?! at 8:59 AM on April 25, 2006


Maybe if they speak too much they get a free trip to Cuba.
posted by Artw at 9:00 AM on April 25, 2006


There are so many things about that video that disturb me. The military attitude of the guard, the ease with which the man acquiesces to a completely unreasonable demand, the hopelessness of both the people being interviewed.

I just have a hard time believe that this can be happening in America.
posted by empath at 9:01 AM on April 25, 2006


I live five minutes from this trailer park. It really is depressing to see. Once, I tried to stop and take pictures from the road, but a security guard shoo-ed me away, saying, "Come on, man. Have a heart." And I felt a little ashamed of myself.

Recently, they closed down almost all access to the trailer park and severly limited who could even get close.

What you have to understand is that this place is down a two lane road with no sidewalks and deep ditches on each side. It's hard to get to on foot (and most trailers don't seem to have cars). The nearest restaurant was a Burger King, but that has closed down (for unrelated reasons.) These are people who are used to walking wherever they need to go, and now they are on a country lane with cow pastures around them.

There is a Popeye's chicken about three miles from the park that always seems to be crowded. (Though they've had a "Help Wanted" banner up for at least a month now and they don't seem to have filled those positions.)

There's a WalMart about five miles away that has a bus service to and from the trailer park. I always see people waiting for the bus at the WalMart. Right after the park opened, the Walmart went from 24 hour service to closing down at 10 and opening at 6. I asked a customer service kid if it was because they had staffing problems, but he said it was only because people would walk there from the trailer park and just stroll the aisles all night.

Rosie was there this week to build a playground, so it's not like they're completely forgotten.

They're not getting much pity from the local community, though.
posted by ColdChef at 9:09 AM on April 25, 2006




Democracy Now's article seems a lot like an article from a local Baton Rouge publication.

Ah, yes. Because this is a story that only needs one publication's reporting.
posted by dhartung at 9:28 AM on April 25, 2006


Now we don't have those images to compare ourselves to.

Ain't that the truth. Even in godless communist countries like China where this happens, the images (censored by the godless, communist Chinese government) are politely ignored by successive U.S. Administrations.
posted by three blind mice at 9:29 AM on April 25, 2006


America sucks more every day.
posted by wakko at 9:29 AM on April 25, 2006


DONNA AZEEZ: My house, I could go back, but I’m really sure my landlord probably have tripled, ‘cause it didn't get flooded. A lot of houses on my block -- what saved my house was that it was up high, up on steps. That's the only thing that saved it. But mostly everybody else, their houses were destroyed.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you could go back into your house?

DONNA AZEEZ: I could go back, but I couldn't afford it. The rent is too high. I couldn't afford it.

AMY GOODMAN: But how do you know that the landlord increased the rent?

DONNA AZEEZ: Well, because it’s everywhere. You know, everywhere you go, the rent has increased. Everything has increased. And then I heard that the government was going to help you out, but that’s just for a certain period of time. And then after that, you’re on your own. So, even if I stay here, I have to find a house that I can afford, because they’re only going to give you a certain amount of money to help you for a while, and then if you can't afford that high rent, well, then you’re out the door.
Obviously the moral-highgroundist are likely to claim Donna is lazy, spoiled ..if the rent is higher is only because demand-supply, like God you know, like God you don't question it you just obey or move or die. Rights ? There's no such thing under the law of God and market. It's Donna fault anyway who choosed to live there, she could have lived in a cave or something.
posted by elpapacito at 9:36 AM on April 25, 2006


Democracy Now's article seems a lot like an article from a local Baton Rouge publication.

1) The Democracy Now item is an interview transcript, not an article.

2) It does not resemble the 225 Baton Rouge piece unless you mean that they have the same title and deal with similar subject matter.

3) Democracy Now indirectly cites the piece you're talking about in their introductory blurb: "The trailer park has been described in the Louisiana press as 'Fema's Dirty Little Secret'..."

So, what's the problem here?
posted by rkent at 9:39 AM on April 25, 2006


FEMA is in an impossible situation here. They seem to make a bit of a mess of it, but that stems from typical bureaucratic incompetence and not any totalitarian desire to control these people.

FEMA is not denying anyone their first amendment rights. They are controlling access to the residents while they are on the FEMA installation. It seems like they're being over zealous, but I certainly understand the impulse. The idea of the trailer parks being flooded with reporters asking questions, without FEMA representatives able to offer FEMA's perspective presents obvious problems. Most of the regulations seem to be for the benefit of the inhabitants, for their privacy or security. If I was forced to live in one of these places, I certainly wouldn't want the government providing my contact information to the press, or allowing them to come harass me in my make shift home.

Does this justify the guard's attitude? Of course not, he's clearly being an asshole, but that's the nature of security guards. Maybe FEMA should reconsider the regulations, or look more closely at how they are being implemented, but I don't see the end of American liberty in this story.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:47 AM on April 25, 2006


Back when they were doing the evacuations after the storm they had one guy who didn't want to leave quoted as saying something like he would rather stay there in the ruin than be put into a concentration camp. The last time I checked the city of new orleans had a moratorium on new trailer camps inside the city. Nobody wants these people in their backyard.

I don't believe you do either. I most certainly do not.

We are all at fault in this. You. Me. The government. The refugees. Here is a web site where you can spend some money to assuage your guilt:

link
posted by bukvich at 9:48 AM on April 25, 2006


Cold Chef, any idea why that playground is being built a mile away from the trailer park?
posted by haikuku at 9:51 AM on April 25, 2006


I probably shouldn't have put minder in quotes. It's not the term that the guard used.

That's OK. I read them as summary marks. Those are used in real journalism all the time.
posted by cribcage at 9:57 AM on April 25, 2006


My understanding is that it was the nearest available public property. FEMA didn't want it on the trailer park property because of liability issues.

I'll have to look at a map, but I think it will run right alongside the railroad tracks. Not the cheeriest place in the world.
posted by ColdChef at 9:58 AM on April 25, 2006


Holy crap. It's worse than I though.

Not only is it a mile down the road from the trailer park, it's ACROSS the railroad tracks AND a very busy highway (that still has no crosswalks).

I'll take pictures of the park once it's done and post them here.
posted by ColdChef at 10:03 AM on April 25, 2006


Bulgaroktonos,

It's not "the end of American liberty" like the final nail in the coffin, but it is part of a general trend of American citizens being all of sudden comfortable with the notion that one of our fundimental liberties has a bunch more conditions attached than it did twenty years ago. I don't think that is something trivial or to be taken lightly. It's the whole bang/whimper deal.
posted by Divine_Wino at 10:12 AM on April 25, 2006


most evil is done by people simply doing their jobs
posted by edgeways at 10:14 AM on April 25, 2006


I hardly think the right to give an interview on public property is in anyone's conception of "fundamental liberties." I'm not well versed enough in First Amendment law to say whether or not there's a violation here, but I can see arguments on either side.

There might be, and if so that's not something to be taken lightly. On the other hand, talk about America as if we've turned in to a totalitarian police state is trivializing the issue. Making outrageous claims only hurts the cause of the person making the claims. Treating this like what it is, a case of a questionable policy with reasonable goals but negative consequences, is a much better way to protect your fundamental liberties than seeing fascists everywhere.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:27 AM on April 25, 2006


rkent: You are right, I realize now my comment was poorly worded. I meant only to point out the artilce.

Coldchef: Isn't Renaissance Village pretty close to the airport? I could have sworn I saw it while taking off from BTR.

Also ColdChef's comment that evacuees are not getting much sympathy from the local community is dead on:
"They don't need compassion or another cash card--just a good kick in the pants."
posted by The Radish at 10:28 AM on April 25, 2006


So...FEMA are Scientologists now?

“Nobody wants these people in their backyard.”

If they were in my town, I’d put them up. Lots of work was done in my area with religious and secular groups to directly help the Katrina victims who came out here.

Part of the problem, and I don’t want to get into a political thing here because it’s not just “liberals” or “conservatives” who have this mindset, it just seems like certain people - in self-evident ways - expect the government or a system to do the work.

Now, there’s not a damn thing wrong with sending someone some money. But part of the problem is expecting someone else to do things the way you would want them done without doing it yourself.

In addition, we generally expect the government - or whatever system - to provide certain things for us and we generally (in the case of the government) don’t want to pay enough for it. Not the way we - for example - tip wait staff for walking our food over to us and the privilege of being served.

So their bottom line - the governments bottom line - is to do this on the cheap. And that’s their master. Saving the American people money.

And how? Well, you have to lay down a lot of rules because inefficiencies such as some guy running his mouth off creates resistance which costs money to overcome. (This all apart from the parasites and pirates in the equation). It costs lawyer money and all kinds of other purely conceptual (that is not reality - you atheists should dig that) costs in risk, PR, etc. etc.

As the guard says: “no, you can be interviewed, as long as it’s off the installation.”
He doesn’t want problems in his backyard. What causes him problems is inefficient variables such as ‘free speech’ but only because it’s in FEMA’s backyard. Which puts the guy within “privilege,” private law. The essence of which is - keep him alive and sheltered, but as cheaply as you can.

The problem though is not that they need more money - because “cheap” would be the bottom line in any case.
Systematic acts of compassion are like that.
You want (or rather bureaucrats want, because it’s quantifiable) to spread the most resources out to help the most people. More money doesn’t mean more control or better quality, it simply means more people get helped. Or many people get helped a little more.

We want to see people treated properly we should ask why we don’t want these people in our backyards.
We should ask why we don’t want to take ownership of the problem if we’re noticing the government is being the bureaucratic cover it’s ass juggernaut it is and crushing people’s rights and dignity.

I mean, what you’re going to sit and watch t.v. your whole life so when you’re 70 and your grandkids ask about your life you can tell ‘em about the Simpsons?

Build someone a house or something. Or coordinate for people building someone a house. Or figure out ways to link people up and trade favors. Or whatever creative shit can be thought up to help. Time and brainwork is more valuable than money and has the benefit of sentience and, often, ethics.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:32 AM on April 25, 2006


My guess is that because the park is run by FEMA it's considered government property. In my experience, working media are required to have a PR flack with them when working on government property. Seems like DN is making a mountain out of a molehill because they didn't follow protocol. I'm not commenting in any way, shape or form on the park conditions, FEMA or anything else having to do with the tragic situation these folks find themselves in nor am I in any way condoning the protocol. Just saying that had DN followed protocol and had a flack with them they would not have been bothered by security and if they had it would then be a story.
posted by photoslob at 10:43 AM on April 25, 2006


I hardly think the right to give an interview on public property is in anyone's conception of "fundamental liberties."

You hardly think that, but it is a fundamental liberty, not just according to the bill of rights BUT in the common moral law (the social contract) and shared cultural history (false or not) of the American people.

I, personally, don't see fascists everywhere, nor do I think corporate-fashist-light-Bush America is the last chapter in the history of the USA, but I do see a CREEPING (as in subtle, as in textural, as in pyschological as opposed to overt policy) shift away from the commonly held notion that every person in America is allowed to say what they want, when they want to "Oh, I'm not allowed to talk about that here, oh ok, then." We are becoming totalitarian-ish, we are police state-y and even if that is as far as it goes that fucking sucks.
posted by Divine_Wino at 10:45 AM on April 25, 2006


I have to say, I was ready to be all indignant about this, but I saw the footage, and sure, I feel sorry for the people who have to live in that place, but the fact that the reporters got kicked off the property is no big deal. The government does not have to allow reporters onto their property. The guard said more than once that an interview was fine as long as it took place off the property.
posted by bingo at 10:46 AM on April 25, 2006


I need to go to a spelling re-education camp!
posted by Divine_Wino at 10:49 AM on April 25, 2006


Also, yes Rolfe McCollister is a “look how many fish these people have been given*” shithead.
(how do folks get to jobs/job training with no car? Who takes care of the kids meantime? How do they move away? Where do these 10 hour day seven day a week working Hispanics come from?)
And since we’re talking anecdotes - I knew a guy from Camaroon named Pierre. Met him in college. He went into law as well. He wanted to stop large multinational corporations from forcing his people not to grow food, but cash crops. He also had a beef with oil companies. I understand he went back to Camaroon with his degree. Several years later his wife, brother and son were hacked to death. Lost track of him after that.

That “welfare state” mentality is like tracer bullets. Points both ways.

*vs teaching them to fish - loose metaphor, I don’t mean the ‘job training’ thing. But he offers nothing other than stopping the aid whereas someone with integrity might look for an actual bootstrapping solution. Or something.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:49 AM on April 25, 2006


I hardly think the right to give an interview on public property is in anyone's conception of "fundamental liberties." I'm not well versed enough in First Amendment law to say whether or not there's a violation here, but I can see arguments on either side.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:27 AM PST on April 25 [!]


In what way is talking to a reporter on public property not speech?
posted by Happy Monkey at 11:06 AM on April 25, 2006


I hardly think the right to give an interview on public property is in anyone's conception of "fundamental liberties."

correct. you hardly think. so, uh, exactly how DO you define public property?
posted by quonsar at 11:14 AM on April 25, 2006


I hardly think the right to give an interview on public property is in anyone's conception of "fundamental liberties." I'm not well versed enough in First Amendment law to say whether or not there's a violation here, but I can see arguments on either side.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:27 AM PST on April 25


Oh, you can? Why not share one of the arguments that allows for the restriction of speech in this manner, genius? We're all holding our breath for your brilliant analysis.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:29 AM on April 25, 2006


Actually, I was holding mine for seething sarcasm.

*exhales deeply*
posted by AllesKlar at 11:32 AM on April 25, 2006


I hardly think the right to give an interview on public property is in anyone's conception of "fundamental liberties."

Well, the First Amendment was posted in this thread. Read it. You don't need to be an expert. Government property; limited speech. Cut and dry.

But who gives a flying rat's ass about legal opinion? It is fundamentally un-American for the FEMA people to try and have any control whatsoever over what those people say. This ought to piss off any red-blooded American.

Yours was one of the dumber comments I've read on MeFi in awhile.
posted by teece at 11:33 AM on April 25, 2006


Coldchef: Isn't Renaissance Village pretty close to the airport? I could have sworn I saw it while taking off from BTR.

It is. I imagine it would be very easy to see from the air. Row after row of white trailers and no grass.
posted by ColdChef at 11:34 AM on April 25, 2006


By the way, FEMA won't give me any more money either, although they have a program to help people with rent. Why not? Because my apartment in New Orleans was not destroyed by Katrina.

Never mind that the landlord rented it out to somebody else while I was away.

I mean, I have a job and all, but this hurricane business was awfully expensive. It pretty much blew through all my savings, and put me about six thou in debt. But, of course, I don't need help, because of a completely arbitrary ruling.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:39 AM on April 25, 2006


They seem to make a bit of a mess of it, but that stems from typical bureaucratic incompetence and not any totalitarian desire to control these people.

I don't think so, keep in mind FEMA's primary mode of operation is to run concentration camps in times of marial law, doing "humanitarian" work and trying to help people is secondary. Katrina was handled so poorly because FEMA was trying to herd people together, cut outside communications, block outside aid like Red Cross, because that's their "natural" mode of operations. The whole "disaster relief" thing is just a cover.
posted by bobo123 at 12:00 PM on April 25, 2006


bobo: what?
posted by empath at 12:01 PM on April 25, 2006


Actually, that makes a lot of sense to me. FEMA was acting a lot less like they were responding to a federal emergency that had gone into "oh shit we've been hit by terrorists" lockdown mode.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:34 PM on April 25, 2006


Isn't FEMA a public, gubmint-of-the-U-S-of-A-agency? Wouldn't that make it public land? Perhaps not.

More and more, "leave it" seems a really appealing option. Only 1,000 more days of Bush. I sure hope that helps.
posted by nevercalm at 1:10 PM on April 25, 2006


FEMA has returned to it's roots as a Martial agency to keep the boot of big government on the throats of Americans even after a nuclear war. In the Clinton years they transitioned more into disaster relief but all those people were fired.
posted by Megafly at 1:16 PM on April 25, 2006


I'm suprised no one has pointed out that the 'public property' in this case is ALSO people's homes. Limiting press access to a random gov facility is one thing, not allowing people to have visitors over, if those visitors happen to be press, is something entirely different.
posted by nomisxid at 1:31 PM on April 25, 2006


Indeed, nomisxid - what then do we say about people living in public housing projects? Howzabout people who have subsidized housing? Etc.

I don’t think there is any question you can’t limit someone’s right to speak freely.

...was the security guard armed? ‘Cause otherwise he could fuck off.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:42 PM on April 25, 2006




Democracy Now is slated... I never trust content that comes from a source that professes it's political lean, left or right. No news source is perfect, but most try to maintain balance or at least don't trumpet an agenda (eg. SF Bay Guardian or your hometown free weekly knee-jerk).

Democracy Now is also intentionally confrontational, Amy equates getting in someone's face and barking questions as 'hard-hitting'. She's a good activist, and lousy journalist.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 2:42 PM on April 25, 2006


Milton, I'm surprised to hear you say that about Amy. I've been following the show off and on for years and have never seen her barking questions at anyone.
posted by john at 3:11 PM on April 25, 2006


You should have heard Amy at the Overseas Press Club dinner during the Bosnian War. Completely disrupted the ceremony, grandstanded by declining an award to Pacifica, then corners Richard Holbrooke in an elevator as he's trying to take his 70+ year-old father home. It was like War not Bombs meets Jackass...

Protest and activism is very important to a healthy democracy and I applaud Amy for sticking it to public officials who rightly should answer the public, but I can't call her a journalist.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 4:13 PM on April 25, 2006


err..Food not Bombs, I meant.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 4:17 PM on April 25, 2006


If they wanted to talk to reporters, they should have moved to a free speech zone.
posted by kirkaracha at 5:03 PM on April 25, 2006


grandstanded by declining an award to Pacifica.

Declining or refusing to accept awards is a perfectly legitimate and common form of protest.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 5:09 PM on April 25, 2006


photoslob writes "In my experience, working media are required to have a PR flack with them when working on government property. "

You mean like a university, a park or on the steps of Capitol Hill?
posted by krinklyfig at 6:49 PM on April 25, 2006


I have to say - this is a sticky case.

Sensible open government laws don't allow totally unfettered access. The FOIA allows the government to charge you for certain expenses necessary to completing your request. New York's FOIL allows for reasonable amounts of time to be used in responding to requests (last time I checked.) So, 100% access is clearly not the norm in government issues.

Private property, on the other hand, is tricky; your conduct and freedoms can be limited by the landowner.

Several people have mentioned that the site is residential -- maybe that's why such rules are in effect. I don't know.

Perhaps the interviewee's rights were abridged by not being allowed to give an interview without a FEMA minder present. But, if such a rule was agreed to by the interviewee, then I don't think it's an abridgement.

That the security guard told them also how to continue the interview unfettered (by leaving the property) seemed to be logical.
posted by bugmuncher at 6:55 PM on April 25, 2006


FEMA employees did everything in their power to undermine relief operations for the people stranded by Hurricane Katrina. Their orders simply corresponded with Washington’s intention to put the city under federal control and to forcefully-evacuate the victims to locations around the Southwest.

...

FEMA has received thousands of mobile homes for residents whose houses were destroyed by Katrina, but most of them are still sitting empty in areas distant from where they are needed because of confusion about where they can legally be located.

A number of private contractors have been charged with fraud for a variety of schemes to cheat Gulf Coast homeowners, and two FEMA employees are facing federal bribery charges for accepting $10,000 each for letting a contractor inflate the number of meals served at a Katrina relief camp.


1 2

posted by mrgrimm at 11:00 PM on April 25, 2006


Optimus Chyme insisted Declining or refusing to accept awards is a perfectly legitimate and common form of protest.

Sure, but if you are declining award because you weren't allowed to ask Richard Holbrooke questions IN THE MIDDLE OF HIS KEYNOTE, then it's grandstanding.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 12:15 PM on April 26, 2006


Did they literally stand up and start talking in the middle of his keynote while all others were silent or was this in a Q&A session?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:44 PM on April 26, 2006


Yep, as a 'protest' because the overseas press was being all chummy with Holbrooke while we were bombing Bosnia. Amy just interrupted his keynote and started peppering him with questions.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 11:21 AM on April 27, 2006


I don't believe you until I see it. Seems way outta character.
posted by john at 6:20 PM on May 2, 2006


According to the account in The Exception to the Rulers, Goodman stood up and asked questions after the speech was over, while people were applauding. Unless you have some sort of evidence that this is not the case, MiltonRandKalman, I'm not buying your position that they interrupted the speech. It doesn't make any sense from a logistical point of view, and I think Goodman is far too experienced to do that.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 7:41 AM on May 3, 2006


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