The U.S. government, which has failed to rescue victims of Hurricane Katrina and provide adequately for many survivors, has recently announced that it will spend more than $50 billion to reconstruct New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.
On Saturday September 8, a group of New Orleans activists and supporters from around the country met in Baton Rouge, LA, to plan a people's response to the crisis caused by Hurricane Katrina. This meeting was called by Community Labor United (CLU), a coalition of progressive community based organization in New Orleans. The purpose was to ensure that every displaced person be allowed to return to his or her homes, participate in the reconstruction process and call for transparency of the billions of dollars appropriated by Congress for relief and reconstruction.
U.S. government officials have deliberately and effectively scattered our people throughout the United States. Thousands of families have been broken up- children from their mothers; husbands from their wives; brothers and sisters from each other.
The attendees came to the general conclusion that the most fundamental demand must be the right of the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast to return to their homes and their communities and participate in reconstruction. This encompasses the following:
- First, the government must provide funds for all families to be reunited. The databases of FEMA and other organizations must be made public.
- Second, the more than $50 billion belongs to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. We demand a Victims Compensation Fund as was done after 9/11 for the people in the World Trade Center in New York City.
- Third, the People's Committee demands representation on all boards that are making decisions on spending public dollars for relief and reconstruction. We also demand that those most affected by Hurricane Katrina be part of the planning process.
- Fourth, we demand public work jobs for the displaced workers and residents of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. We must take a lead in the rebuilding of our communities. The jobs must be at union wages so that our population is no longer characterized by extreme poverty.
- Lastly, we demand transparency in the entire reconstruction process. Citizens must know where all the monies are being spent and with whom they are being spent.
We must be guaranteed the right to plan our future free from the dictates of the politicians in Washington D.C., Baton Rouge, LA, and at the local level. We must work to ensure that those most affected and displaced by Hurricane Katrina play an integral role in rebuilding our communities.