Malik Rahim, veteran of the Black Panther Party in New Orleans, is interviewed in the Algiers neigherborhood by Democracy Now! producers. Rahim talks about what should have been differently. [includes rush transcript]
We turn to Malik Rahim who had his own critique of Mayor Nagin’s response to the devastating Hurricane Katrina. Malik Rahim is a veteran of the Black Panther Party in New Orleans. For decades he has worked as an organizer of public housing tenants both there and in San Francisco. He recently ran for New Orleans City Council on the Green Party ticket. Democracy Now! producers John Hamilton and Sharif Abdel Kouddous met with Malik Rahim on Sunday afternoon in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans, which lies on the west bank, and is the only part of the city that is not flooded. They drove with him to get ice, water and food for his community. On the way, Malik began by talking what he would have done differently to deal with the storm.
- Malik Rahim, New Orleans Organizer of Public Housing Tenants
JUAN GONZALEZ: Producers John Hamilton and Sharif Abdel Koudous met with Malik Rahim on Sunday afternoon in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans which lies on the West bank and is the only part of the city that is not flooded. They drove with him to get ice, water and food for his community. On the way, Malik began by talking about what he would have done differently to deal with the storm.
MALIK RAHIM: I would have commandeered everything, Greyhound buses, Amtrak trains, school buses, public service buses and had them all filled with people getting them out of harm’s way. That was the very first thing I would have done. Secondly, I would have asked for volunteers. Volunteers of people that lived in the community and that know the community that didn’t need a map to find out where such and such is — street exists. And had them come back in here. I would have had my police force to commandeer every boat that was available. Because everybody knew the flooding was going to happen. You know, to make sure that people would have been getting out. I wouldn’t have left it on the faith-based community. I would have made sure that everybody would have had a means that wanted to leave, or they had the means to leave. Even if I would have took some of these car dealerships and made every truck that’s like this one, I would have went in there and took them all. I mean, what’s going to happen to them? So what if they messed up. They was going to be flooded anyway. So, you are going to lose them one way or another, but it could have got people out of harm’s way, you know? There’s no way in the world I would have put people in that Superdome. Everybody knew that that Superdome was nothing but a death trap. Because if we would have gotten 30 feet of water, how are you going to survive in that Superdome? I mean, everybody knew this. And then when you start hearing the horror stories, last year we had test run. A hurricane came, but at the last minute, it veered off. So, we had a test run. Everybody knew what needed to be in place, and it seemed like — he still got caught unprepared with his pants down. Ray Nagin. No, I don’t have no — listen, the little respect I have for him is gone. Same thing about our Governor. You know, the little respect I had for her is gone.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDOUS: Nagin got on the radio and gave an impassioned speech talking about —
MALIK RAHIM: It was too late.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDOUS:…how federal authorities failed.
MALIK RAHIM: But listen, if you get out this car, and get under here to work on this car, and I run over you, and while you laying there dying, I’m telling you about how sorry I am, what good would that do you? How would you feel? Would you feel better? Well, I’m going to die, but at least he’s sorry he killed me. You still dead. You know, that’s the part of it — you know. It’s too late to be talking about who failed. You failed. We elected you to represent us. So, if you was waiting on the federal government, then damn, we don’t need you as Mayor. We need the federal government to run New Orleans. We don’t need you, if you cannot lead the city in a time of emergency. You know, this is when we need leadership. This is when we need for the real Ray Nagin to come and stand up. You know, not to be on no boat trying to rescue people, because you don’t feel — now all of a sudden you have a guilt trip. You know, you should have been out here leading everybody by getting them out of the city. That could have left. You know, I mean, it just came too little too late.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDOUS: And the Governor?
MALIK RAHIM: The Governor ain’t about nothing. She was — she was just as lost as he was. You know, there ain’t no — none of them know what they was doing. You know, their answer to everything now is send in more troops. Marshall law. You know? I mean, for what? I mean, there’s no reason for it now. Most of the looters and the people that was doing wrong that was stealing for all of the wrong reasons have done left. Now, you just have people here dying that’s scared to go in the store to get anything. Because they are scared that you are going to kill them. She did’t come through here with no compassion. Nothing. You know what I mean, look how long we have been here. So, you tell me she’s doing her [ bleep ] job? How long we’ve been sitting in this hot sun trying to get ice? Damn near an hour. You know, I mean, so, what is she doing? What is Ray Nagin doing when he ain’t got one place in the whole damn city of New Orleans where we could get services from? We have to travel this far? When we get back to New Orleans, I’m going to show you if we could get to this firehouse they got water stacked up damn near to the ceiling. They ain’t giving none of it away. You tell me if your house is on fire, and I come out there with — even if I just have to have a bucket with water in it, you are going to tell me, oh, no, you ain’t got to throw that bucket on my house. I’m waiting for the Fire Department. You ain’t got to go in there and rescue my children because the firemen’s going to be here in a little while to rescue. I want order. You are going to let everybody anybody that can help you, help you get out. I bet you there wasn’t one person out there that was rescued by a civilian that told people, 'oh, no, man, you ain't got to rescue me. I’m going to wait until Ray Nagin sends somebody here for me. He is going to send somebody.’ I know that that’s a lie. I know ain’t nobody going to do that. You are going to jump on anything. That’s the way it should have been done for help, you know? The very first thing he should have done is made sure that one, that the medical assistance he knew it was going to be needed was made available. He should have had that in place. He should have had food in place. He should have had water in place. He should have had ice in place. He should have had generators in place. That’s something that the city could have done. Even if they had to commandeer them from these stores. You know, you have backup generators in every one of these high rise buildings. What’s in them? People not living in them? So, why couldn’t he take them? Or he could put people in them. You know, he didn’t do either. You know? It’s all about property. Everything is about property. I tell you what, look at Cuba. Any time a hurricane — when that — when Hugo was passing through Cuba, and it was about to hit Havana, Cuba — the Cuban government came through there and took everybody out of Havana. I mean, everybody was safe. They didn’t have this kind of madness. So, I mean, so why are we going through it? Cuban government done said that they were willing to offer assistance with doctors. They wouldn’t even accept them. Now, you tell me if doctors isn’t needed when you tell me about the people dying at the airport. But because of politics, you know, they won’t take the aid. You know, that’s stupid. It’s just straight up stupid.
AMY GOODMAN: Malik Rahim speaking in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans. This is Democracy Now!