For Immediate Release
April 4, 2012
Green Party of DeKalb County
Contact: Richard Searcy, Co-Chair
Cynthia McKinney, the sentencing of New Orleans Police Officers, and the implications to the Trayvon Martin Case
DeKalb County, Ga. - Five former New Orleans police officers have been sentenced to prison terms of six to sixty-five years for their roles in the shootings of six unarmed residents on the Danzinger bridge in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Two of the victims were killed. The New Orleans Police Department engaged in a cover-up of these tragic events which are quite similar to what is transpiring before the world by the Sanford Police Department in Florida which is investigating the murder of Trayvon Martin today. It took the federal Justice Department to bring these criminals to court and ultimately to justice in New Orleans, just as it will take that same intervention to bring justice to Trayvon Martin and his family.
Fortunately for the families of the victims of that horrid night during Katrina, they had a warrior to stand and fight for them and all the victims who suffered the double blow of Nature's wrath and racist injustice of Man. That warrior was Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney.
While the leadership of the Democratic Party called for a boycott of the Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina, McKinney ignored that call and chose to be an active participant instead. At the request of McKinney, the Committee, chaired by Republican Thomas M. Davis, held a previously unscheduled hearing titled "Voices Inside the Storm" on December 6, 2005. This hearing attracted national attention when several Black evacuees testified about the horrors and discrimination they suffered during the disaster. They spoke of the nightmarish stories of their treatment at the hands of police and military authorities. Broadcast live on C-SPAN, the hearing received national media attention. McKinney, sometimes almost by herself, insisted on bringing national attention and legislation to the tragedies of Katrina.
She held her own hearing called, “The Role of Race and Class in the Government's Response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.” During these hearings, both she and the residents who testified were villified and called all manner of nasty names.
In questioning Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, McKinney referred to a news story in which the owners of a nursing home had been charged with negligent homicide for abandoning 34 clients who died in the flood waters. McKinney asked Chertoff: "Mr. Secretary, if the nursing home owners are arrested for negligent homicide, why shouldn't you also be arrested for negligent homicide?
During the Katrina crisis, many residents were turned away from crossing the Crescent City Connection Bridge between New Orleans and Gretna, Louisiana. McKinney was the only member of Congress to participate in a march to protest what happened on that bridge, and she introduced legislation, HR 4209, to temporarily deny federal assistance to the City of Gretna Police Department.
Interestingly, both President Barack Obama and VP Joe Biden voted twice against diverting funds from the Alaska's infamous “Bridge to Nowhere” to repair a badly damaged bridge in Lousiana during the Katrina disaster that was desperately needed by the residents.
While many offer their condolences to the families of Trayvon Martin, it should be noted that warriors for the people don't just talk the talk. They walk in the footsteps of giants. They stand tall and they speak truth to power despite the adversity they face, and even when their own political party doesn't want them to.
As the Congress and the Black Caucus now scrambles to find the proper response to the Martin murder, perhaps they should take a cue from one of their former members who let courage and intelligence lead the way. Nothing prevents them from holding their own hearings as she did. The actions that McKinney took were not only for the victims of Katrina, but for the victims of authoritarian abuse of innocent people in her district and everywhere else.
The Green Party of DeKalb County is proud of our sister, our warrior, Cynthia McKinney