Hurricane Katrina: Martial Law

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Martial law was not declared in Louisiana in relation to Hurricane Katrina. On August 31, 2005, the Louisiana Attorney General's office clarified "reports in some media that 'martial law' [had] been declared in parts of storm-ravaged southeast Louisiana, saying no such term exists in Louisiana law," the New Orleans Times Picayune reported.
Also see [1], [2], [3], [4]

"The eruption of violence, disorder and confusion caught many by surprise. A simulation that emergency management officials ran last year of a catastrophic flood and hurricane hitting New Orleans did not address the possibility of widespread violence and disorder," said Madhu Beriwal, founder, president, and CEO of Innovative Emergency Management, the Baton Rouge, Lousiana-based company that ran the "Hurricane Pam" simulation exercise. Beriwal said September 3, 2005, that "the violence issue was to be addressed at a later meeting."

As of September 4, 2005, the Associated Press reported that Louisiana Governor Blanco had "refused to sign over National Guard control to the federal government" and had ""turned to a Clinton administration official, former Federal Emergency Management Agency chief James Lee Witt, to help run relief efforts."

There is, however, a Police State Occupation of New Orleans.


"It is impossible to over-emphasize the extent to which this area is under government occupation, and portions of it under government-enforced lockdown. Police cars rule the streets. They (along with Humvees, ambulances, fire apparatus, FEMA trucks and all official-looking SUVs) are generally not stopped at checkpoints and roadblocks. All other vehicles are subject to long lines and snap judgments and must PROVE they have vital business inside the vast roped-off regions here. If we did not have the services of an off-duty law enforcement officer, we could not do our jobs in the course of a work day and get back in time to put together the broadcast and get on the air. As we are about to do," MSNBC's Brian Williams wrote September 16, 2005.

Note: Brian Williams has a New Orleans weblog posted, linked to the segment above, on the MSNBC website.

"Southeast Louisiana Catastrophic Hurricane Functional Plan"

A DRAFT copy of the "Southeast Louisiana Catastrophic Hurricane Functional Plan" (IEM/TEC04-070), dated August 6, 2004, (125-pdf) was posted online by MSNBC Media. The Plan was prepared under FEMA BPA HSFEHQ-04-A-0288, Task Order 001.

Pdf pages 19 through 22 address "Billeting"; pages 31 through 35 address "Transport from Water to Shelter"; and pages 47 through 52 address "Access Control and Re-entry".

State of Emergency

The Times Picayune reported the following in the same August 31, 2005, article.

"But even though no martial law exists, Gov. Kathleen Blanco's declaration of a state of emergency [on August 26, 2005] gives authorities widespread latitude to suspend civil liberties as they try to restore order and bring victims to safety. Under the Louisiana Homeland Security and Emergency Assistance and Disaster Act of 1993, the governor and, in some cases, chief parish officials, have the right to commandeer or utilize any private property if necessary to cope with the emergency.
"Authorities may also suspend any statute related to the conduct of official business, or any rule issued by a state agency, if complying would 'prevent, hinder or delay necessary action' to mitigate the emergency.
"It also gives authority the right to compel evacuations, suspend alcohol and weapons sales and make provisions for the availability and use of temporary emergency housing.
"The law gives mayors similar authority, except they do not have the right to commandeer private property or make provisions for emergency housing, according to a background brief prepared by the state Attorney General's office."

"As the city continued flooding from at least two levees damaged by Hurricane Katrina," UPI reported August 30, 2005. "No one but emergency personnel was being allowed into the city, whose two airports were under water."

The natural disaster that struck New Orleans and the southern Gulf Coast of the United States on August 29, 2005, "has given rise to the largest military mobilization in modern history on US soil," Bill Van Auken wrote September 8, 2005.

"Squads of combat-equipped troops toting assault rifles and columns of humvees with gunners at the ready crisscross its flooded streets. Soldiers with bayonets mounted have begun house-to-house canvassing of the city to enforce the complete removal of its civilian population. ...

"It is becoming increasingly apparent that the disastrous delay in providing aid to the cityâ??s beleaguered citizens was in large part a matter of waiting until this massive military force was ready to deploy. ...

"Whatever the validity of these motives, the proposed forced evacuation will constitute the most massive military operation mounted against the people of an American city since the Civil War.

"While the US military deployment includes medical teams, search-and-rescue helicopters and other forms of relief, the largest troop contingents have been deployed as a military occupation force, to protect private property and suppress civil disturbances."

Joint Task Force Katrina

No Free Press

First, as Josh Marshall wrote, "there were the FEMA orders barring members of the press from photographing anything to do with the recovery of the bodies of the dead."

Then, on September 7, 2005, MSNBC's Brian Williams reported from New Orleans that "An interesting dynamic is taking shape in this city, not altogether positive: after days of rampant lawlessness (making for what I think most would agree was an impossible job for the New Orleans Police Department during those first few crucial days of rising water, pitch-black nights and looting of stores) the city has now reached a near-saturation level of military and law enforcement."

When attempting to take pictures of National Guard soldiers, Williams and his crew were "ordered to the other side of the boulevard. The short version is: there won't be any pictures of this particular group of Guard soldiers on our newscast tonight. Rules (or [he suspects] in this case an order on a whim) like those do not HELP the palpable feeling that this area is somehow separate from the United States."

Related Links

Photographs of the Dead

In an email that stated "'space was needed on the rescue boats'," a FEMA spokesman "rejected journalists' requests to accompany rescue boats searching for storm victims," Reuters reported September 7, 2005.

However, on September 9, 2005, attorneys for CNN "argued that the ban was an unconstitutional prior restraint on news gathering. ... U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison issued a temporary restraining order against a 'zero access' policy announced earlier Friday by Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, who is overseeing the federal relief effort in the city, and Terry Ebbert, the city's homeland security director."

"Rather than fight a lawsuit by CNN, the federal government abandoned its effort Saturday to prevent the media from reporting on the recovery of the dead in New Orleans." [5]

Related SourceWatch Resources: Hurricane Katrina: List of related pages

External links

Chaos in New Orleans: September 1 - 5, 2005

Related SourceWatch Resources: Hurricane Katrina: List of related pages

Other SourceWatch Resources