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New Orleans Resident Discusses Race and Looting at Circle K

StorySeptember 12, 2005
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New Orleans resident Mike Howell is a "holdout"–one of those refusing to leave his home–in the French Quarter. He discusses the looting of a local grocery store saying, "this could happen in Santa Monica, California, it could happen on Long Island, New York, it could happen in Palm Beach, Florida...if people felt they were going to run out of food and water." [includes rush transcript]

  • Mike Howell, New Orleans resident.

TRANSCRIPT
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Mike Howell. He and his wife, Angela, are what are called "holdouts." They are refusing to leave their home in the French Quarter. In a minute, we’ll hear Mike lay out what he considers the seven betrayals to the people of New Orleans. But first, we stood outside the Circle K.

MIKE HOWELL: The store I’m standing in front of is Circle K, it’s a local mini market like Stop N’ Go. And I used to go to this store every morning for coffee, cigarettes, iced tea, whatever I wanted or Angela wanted. And I think the history of this store, as far as looting goes, pretty much reflects the history of looting recently in New Orleans. When I saw people looting this store, and I saw people repeatedly looting it for five days straight, this store was open, maybe not for business, but open for shopping. And people would come in and take out whatever they were going to take out, but what I noticed here is that the vast majority of people looting this store were white and middle class. Okay?

And I saw this one woman take goods out of here, and she definitely lives in a house, a property owner, obviously fairly well to do, about 70, had very much the patrician air about her. And she had been hostile to street entertainers prior to the hurricane. Now this street has a [inaudible] street entertainer, and so she had always been kind of a law and order person, so to speak. But now, I noticed that she was walking outside the store with looted goods, and I walked up to her and just had a little fun, and I said, "Isn’t it illegal to take those products?" And she said, "Well, I earned them, and I’m going to keep them." This was a woman who used to complain about the homeless, the tarot card readers, the street musicians, the young blacks running around. Now, she went back to her $500,000 home with her looted goods. Okay?

On another occasion, a fellow we know, an associate, he’s a retired surgeon, he looks just like Alfred Hitchcock, and we saw him coming out of the store. He turned and looked at us. He said, "I never dreamed I would be a looter, but now I’m a looter." So just imagine Alfred Hitchcock looting your local Stop N’ Go or Mini Mart. That’s what you had. That’s pretty much reflected. We have people from the neighborhood, I guess, looked like people from the neighborhood, going in there and looting.

Now, I know, as far as race there was no — from what I observed, in terms of looting, walking down Rampart Street and other areas, you saw whites and blacks looting alongside one another. And I have yet to hear of any incident where there was any racial problems or antagonism. Everybody was busy doing New Orleans shopping. And so, I think what we see here is what could happen in Santa Monica, California, is what could happen on Long Island, New York. It’s what could happen in Palm Beach, Florida. It’s what could happen along the Gold Coast of Michigan Avenue, if they, people there, felt they were going to run out of food and water.

AMY GOODMAN: Mike Howell, a holdout in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

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