Hurricane Katrina's Displaced Persons: Forced Evacuation? Forced Detention?

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Placed against the background of martial law and a growing presence of a police state in the city of New Orleans alone, two questions arise regarding Hurricane Katrina's displaced persons: "Were they victims of a forced evacuation?" and "Are they being held in forced detention?"

"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"; pages 47 through 52 address "Access Control and Re-entry"; pages 80 through 95 address "Shelters"; and pages 96 through 108 address "Temporary Housing".


"In a country where movements of tired, poor and huddled masses are an intrinsic part of who we are, the unprecedented mass exodus of people from their homes in the Gulf Coast region -- more than half a million people -- could unleash changes for years to come," CNN reported September 11, 2005.

Right of Return

"The people of New Orleans have a right to return. It is not too early to say so. In fact, it is imperative that we demand the Right of Return now, before the circumstances of the displacement of this population create facts on the ground that cannot be reversed," Radio BC (Black Commentator) broadcast on September 8, 2005. Transcript and audio link on page.

No Idea of Destination

It was reported on September 8, 2005, that more than 63,000 New Orleans residents were "flown to shelters in nine states throughout the country, including Texas, Arizona, Georgia and Utah. Many [had] no idea where they're going or when they'll return to New Orleans, if they return at all."


On September 5, 2005, CNN reported that a halt was placed to airlifting "displaced persons" from Texas to other states, according to Texas Governor Rick Perry. FEMA was then "reviewing how to best handle the influx of evacuees to Texas, which Perry said by [September 4] had reached 230,000."

In the same CNN report, the American Red Cross (ARC), said that it had "provided housing for more than 130,000 people in 470 shelters across 12 states." However, on September 6, 2005, slightly different information in an ARC report showed the distribution of 111,000 evacuees predominantly in two states: 56,000 in Texas, including those at the Houston Astrodome, and 55,000 remaining in Louisiana.

Obviously, then, all displaced persons were not relocated or accounted for by ARC. Of the 230,000 estimated to be in Texas on September 5, minus the 56,000 people said to have been relocated there by the ARC, the conclusion can only be that, using its Executive Order powers, FEMA had relocated the unattributed 175,000 persons to Texas.

"Days after Hurricane Katrina left staggering numbers of Gulf Coast residents with nowhere to go, several thousand now have a place to call home: San Antonio." Beginning September 2, 2005, up to 25,000 persons were to be housed in "Buildings 1536 and 171 at KellyUSA, a military base-turned-civilian business park on the Southwest Side." [1]

Note that a true estimate of how many people were evacuated to Texas is difficult to discern, as Lisa Rein and Dan Balz, wrote in the Washington Post on September 4, 2005, that 240,000 evacuees were straining capacity in Houston.


The Denver Post's Diane Carman wrote September 7, 2005, that about 160 "hurricane survivors" were "being housed in the dorms" of the Community College of Aurora, but the buildings were "surrounded by fences, roadblocks, security guards and enough armed police officers to invade Grenada."


Illinois was preparing on September 7, 2005, for the arrival of "thousands of Hurricane Katrina evacuees."


The American Red Cross reported September 6, 2005, that 55,000 evacuees were then housed in Louisiana.


More than 200 people of the anticipated 2,500 displaced by Hurricane Katrina arrived in two groups September 8 and 9, 2005, at Camp Edwards located on Otis Air National Guard Base on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. "The storm victims will stay at Camp Edwards for up to two months."

Even though the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission voted August 26, 2005, to close Cape Cod's Otis Air National Guard Base, on September 12, 2005, the base was taken off the closure list and its status changed to "realignment," Associated Press political writer Glen Johnson reported.

North Carolina

Local news WRAL reported September 3, 2005, that "hundreds of evacuees from the Katrina-ravaged Gulf Coast" arrived first in Raleigh, then were "flown into Raleigh-Durham International Airport" and "transported to the Wake County Hurricane Disaster Victim Center, which is located near the N.C. State Fairgrounds."


It was reported Sepember 6, 2005, on the AboveTopSecret website that the Falls Creek "youth camp for Southern Baptist churches in Oklahoma [had] agreed to have its facilities used to house Louisiana refugees." (The eye-witness report is accompanied by numerous photographs showing preparations at the camp.)

However, on September 15, 2005, the Pryor Creek, Oklahoma, Daily Times reported that, "[a]fter anticipating the arrival of 3,000 survivors from Hurricane Katrina for more than two days, volunteers and government agencies were given the word late Tuesday [September 13] that the status of operations at Falls Creek was put on standby."

South Carolina

On September 7, 2005, it was reported that four plane loads of evacuees were expected in Columbia, South Carolina.


The Associated Press reported September 5, 2005, that at least two military planes with National Guardsmen aboard took evacuees to Utah who lacked knowledge of -- and who were not to be told -- their destination.

"Utah's Governor Jon Huntsman has taken in some of the New Orleans refugees, at Camp Williams. Replete with barbed wire, armed soldiers with weapons at ready, police and sheriff with weapons at ready, and hell, they must surely feel right at home. In America yet," Don Nash reported September 6, 2005, in Unknown News.

"Camp W.G. Williams occupies 25,000 acres in northcentral Utah, 26 miles south of Salt Lake City. It sits on the west slope of the Traverse Mountains." [2]

"The Hurricane Katrina insurgency from New Orleans is tucked safely away behind the 6-foot chain link fence with the accommodating barb wire atop chain links. The ONLY entry into Detention Camp Utah is through the highly secure military gates that are guarded by armed military guards twenty four seven. ... The ONLY access to the New Orleans insurgency is granted to military, government officials, and MAINSTREAM media," Nash wrote.

Detention Camp Utah, "located about 20 miles from downtown civilization," is a "windblown and barren military installation atop the foothills of what is known as the Oquirrh (pronounced ochre) Mountains. It is isolated and surely quiet," Nash said. "There is no transportation, public or otherwise, for the New Orleans insurgency. Supposedly, it has been reported by one local media concern that there will be twice-daily bus service available to 'cleared' insurgents."

On September 8, 2005, KSL News Radio/TV 5 reported that a file it had obtained "reveals extensive criminal histories with some of the Hurricane Katrina evacuees flown to Utah. ... Background checks run by Utah law enforcement reveal seven murders, six sexual crimes, numerous armed robberies, a few batteries of police officers, and one kidnapping. In all, the file, not intended to be made public, lists 40 evacuees and their felony convictions. The list was compiled by law enforcement working with Utah's Joint Terrorism Task Force."

"Utah Department of Public Safety spokesman objected to broadcasts concerning the criminal backgrounds, insisting all of the convicted felons had already served their jail and prison sentences and moved on in their lives. But, the file obtained by KSL Newsradio shows law enforcement were concerned enough about the past crimes to assemble a spreadsheet with names and felony convictions next to room and bed number assignments at the evacuees’ temporary home at Camp Williams," KSL reported.

Washington, D.C.

The Washington, D.C. Armory anticipated sheltering 400 evacuees, the Washington Post's Eric M. Weiss, reported September 3, 2005.

American Red Cross Shelters

The American Red Cross reported September 6, 2005, that it then had shelters in eight states:

  • Texas: 74 shelters, including the Astrodome; 56,000 people
  • Louisiana: 175 shelters; 55,000 people
  • Mississippi: 113 shelters; 17,000 people
  • Alabama: 48 shelters; 5,200 people
  • Florida: 41 shelters; 3,600 people
  • Arkansas: 7 shelters; 3,000 people
  • Georgia: 17 shelters; 1,100 people
  • Tennessee: 3 shelters; 1,000 people

Related SourceWatch Resources: Hurricane Katrina: List of related pages

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